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Indonesia News Digest 43 – November 16-22, 2007

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 News & issues

'Buy Nothing Day' almost turns ugly as crowds hunt for freebies

Jakarta Post - November 26, 2007

Jakarta – The global Buy Nothing Day event was marked again in the capital Sunday, with a number of young Jakartans playing leading roles in organizing it. Special events were held in front of malls as well as in a city park.

On the road between the Plaza Senayan and Senayan City malls, a theatrical performance was staged while volunteers handed out 'Buy Nothing Day' flyers to passersby. At the same time in Sambas Park, another kind of celebration took place in the form of a 'really, really free market' at which people could bring stuff to give away.

A performer in the event at the shopping malls was Nidya Paramita, 24, from a community called the Red Rebel DIY House. She said that in order to mark the day, her 25-strong group were distributing flyers to people in cars and on the streets, as well as putting on a theatrical and musical performance at noon.

"We believe that this area is where consumerism has its roots. Later, we will join the other community in Sambas Park," she said.

Meanwhile, the free market in Sambas Park, which lasted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., provided free food, clothes, free T-shirt printing, book readings, acupressure, a free acting class and an introduction to Braille from the Mitra Netra Foundation for the blind.

Ika Vantiani, 31, from a community called the Dipepi Free Food Gang, said that Buy Nothing Day was intended to counter consumerism and to promote the concept that sharing was better than buying. "The spirit of Buy Nothing Day is sharing, not charity," Ika said.

Buy Nothing Day is a global event initiated by Canadian magazine Adbusters to discourage shopping and promote sharing. It aims at reducing consumerism and the ensuing waste. The first Buy Nothing Day took place in Canada in the early 1990s, Ika said.

Ika added that they wanted to run the event in the same way as in the US, where non-material things are also given free. "In the US there was this woman who didn't bring any stuff to give away, but rather said she was a good listener. In no time at all, a long line had formed to avail of her services," Ika said.

The event, however, took a not unsurprising turn for Jakarta, with more people turning up looking to get freebies than to give.

Ika had initially announced the free market on a number of mailing lists in her network. However, radio stations and newspapers interviewed her before the event and hence the rapacious throngs. At least 100 people visited the park, with many of them not quite grasping the concept behind the free market.

Strangers to the idea of sharing and 'Buy Nothing Day', many of the visitors appeared hell bent on grabbing everything in sight.

The name "free market" also resulted in a misperception among some housewives, who turned up looking for rice and sugar handouts. An irate visitor from East Jakarta even demanded that she be reimbursed her bus fare after she found that there were actually very few freebies on offer.

However, many others were quite happy to while away the afternoon in the park. (tif)

Middle class prefer information to soaps, says survey

Jakarta Post - November 23, 2007

Jakarta – Although soap operas remain the most popular TV programs in Indonesia, most middle-income and educated households prefer news and other informative programs, such as talk shows and showbiz news, a survey reveals.

The results of the TV audience and viewing survey, which was conducted in 10 major Indonesian cities by AGB Nielsen Media Research Indonesia in July-September, also shows that, like their parents, only a small percentage of children from middle-income homes are partial to soaps, or sinetron as they are known here.

According to the survey, the households with a monthly income of more than Rp 3 million (about US$315) also preferred to watch soccer matches, musical programs like the Ungu-Nidji Superband Duet, Western children's movies like Harry Potter, and comedy shows, such as Extravaganza.

"Those who are highly educated, such as those who have attended university or equivalent institutions, also tend to watch informative shows, whereas those who are less educated prefer entertainment offerings, such as variety, reality and game shows," AGB Nielsen marketing communications executive Andini Wijendaru told a media briefing Thursday.

She said that other types of musical programs, such as Indonesian Idol and Mamamia, were favored by the upper-income brackets, in addition to Western movies and TV series, and sports tournaments, like the Asia Cup.

In terms of length of time spent viewing, housewives were found to spend the most time per day watching TV, with an average of 3 hours and 12 minutes, 59 minutes of which was spent watching soap operas and the remainder on religion-themed shows.

Other viewers would spend an average of between 2.4 hours and 2.9 hours a day watching a variety of shows, depending on their age segment, educational level, profession and socio-economic background.

"The kind of TV shows people watch depends on their demographic backgrounds, and this is confirmed by our survey," said Hellen Katherina, AGB Nielsen's associate director for marketing and client service.

The AGB Nielsen 2007 third-quarter survey essentially highlights the correlation between a viewer's socioeconomic status and his TV viewing preferences, particularly during prime time.

It reveals that 72.07 percent of soap operas' total viewership comes from households with monthly incomes of less than Rp 1,500,000 (about US$159.63).

"People with a monthly income of below Rp 500,000 spend the most time watching TV, whereas those who make more than Rp 3 million spend the least. The report shows that 74.77 percent of total TV viewership is made up of lower-middle income households," Andini added.

AGB Nielsen, which has been conducting audience surveys for TV networks and advertisers in Indonesia since 2004, carried out the July-September survey by stratified random sampling covering 42 million individuals in 10 major Indonesian cities, including Greater Jakarta, Bandung in West Java, Medan in North Sumatra, Makassar in South Sulawesi and Denpasar in Bali. (amr)

Legal aid workers resign en masse

Jakarta Post - November 16, 2007

From a total of 22 people employed by the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), 19 resigned Thursday in protest against the foundation's current leadership.

Established in 1971, YLBHI was regarded during the New Order as a staunch defender of those in need and of human rights. The legal aid institute has been regarded as a training ground for noted lawyers, who started their careers taking pro bono cases.

The 19 said they thought the characteristics and visions of A. Patra M. Zen "fell short of their expectations". The employees said they felt "suppressed" under Patra's authoritative leadership and said his vision was not in line with the organization's motives.

"Patra issued an organizational policy to bring in at least Rp 5 billion (US$537,634) per year to finance operations," Fenta Peturun, former internal deputy for the foundation, told a press conference at the foundation's office.

"Our organization's mission is to help suppressed poor citizens who need legal assistance, not to collect money. He has transformed the organization into profit (oriented) body."

Fenta said the social solidarity values of the foundation had been betrayed through the application of new internal regulations.

Employees were photographed as they embraced one another after the press conference ended. Patra was not available for comment.

Tabrani Abby, who refused to resign from the organization, said, "They have right to do that, but I think that they should have discussed their disagreements in the forum first... that is the right procedure". "However, the reason I am staying is because I still want to serve the foundation. I am not just working for Patra," he said.

Founder Adnan Buyung Nasution told The Jakarta Post there were no serious problems inside the foundation, including any change of vision or ideology.

"The employees only object (to) Patra's management style, which is considered to be arrogant or authoritarian," Adnan said. "I think this is only a matter of character. They should have brought the issue to the forum instead of such abrupt action. But I honor their decision."

Adnan also dismissed allegations there was any such target for the foundation to raise Rp 5 billion a year.


Sharia law 'could support Aceh truth and reconciliation'

Jakarta Post - November 24, 2007

Jakarta – Experts recommended Friday that Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam look toward locally implemented sharia laws to see established the Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission (KKR Aceh), despite the KKR's current lack of legal backing on a national level.

Local sharia law could see issued a Qanun, or regional law in accordance to sharia Islamic law, which could implement the beginnings of a wholly independent and local truth and reconciliation commission.

The Constitutional Court's recent decision to revoke laws on the National KKR has hampered any progress toward establishing Aceh's commission on time, as required by the laws around Aceh's governance.

"The (2005) Helsinki MOU stated that a truth and reconciliation commission is to be established in Aceh," Aceh's governor Irwandi Yusuf said. "According to the law, the commission was supposed to be effective by Aug. 1, 2007."

Aceh's governance laws require the KKR Aceh to stand under the National KKR. But the National KKR is yet to be established by the central government because of a revocation of the laws it needed to be realized last year.

"Meanwhile, there has been strong pressure on our side for the establishment of the commission, as conveyed by victims of human rights violations," Irwandi said. "The Aceh government is facing a really difficult challenge."

Chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) Ifdah Kasim said Aceh could still go ahead with the plan. He said the truth commission's formal position was judicially acknowledged within the relevant law.

"Theoretically, the Aceh Truth and Reconciliation Commission is legally there," Ifdah said.

"And there's not a single article in that law that says the commission in Aceh couldn't be established before the presence of a national commission," Ifdhal told a seminar on truth and peace in Aceh, held at Bima Karsa Hotel in Jakarta.

Ifdah said the court had provided several recommendations, "not one of (which) said anything about stopping the peace accords in Aceh".

He said Aceh could resort to local sharia law and issue a Qanun detailing the procedures and guidelines for the commission. He said the guidelines could be sent to the seminar held by the European Union's Aceh Peace Process Support and Komnas HAM.

Syiah Kuala University dean of law Mawardi Ismail said Islam advocated "forgiveness" as more mandatory than "punishment". "Therefore, any requirements for the mechanism of forgiving is wajib (religiously mandatory) in Islamic law," Mawardi said.

Boediono of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry said the revision of the laws around the National KKR would take less time than issuing a new law.

"After several inter-sectoral discussions, we started designing the revision draft six months ago," Boediono said. "It's still in process and we plan to conduct a public assessment on a model for the National KKR this December."

Boediono said it would take full commitment from Komnas HAM and Aceh's government to ensure the peace process in Aceh stayed on track. (lva)

Aceh former rebels 'may be hoarding weapons'

Radio Australia - November 22, 2007

Reports from Indonesia say rogue elements of the Free Aceh Movement GAM are illegally hoarding weapons, two years after a peace agreement was signed with the government. The surrender of weapons and re-integration of former GAM rebels into the Acehnese community were part of a peace deal struck in August 2005 between the separatist group and the Indonesian government.

Presenter – Sen Lam Speaker – Edward Aspinall, Indonesia specialist and fellow at the Australian National University

Aspinall: The peace agreement which was signed two years ago in Helsinki required the movement to surrender 800 weapons. It surrendered a number more than that although many of those weren't considered to fulfill the kind of technical requirements insisted upon by the Indonesian side. But in any case it was widely understood at the time that in fact the movement had a much larger number of weapons, and indeed, they had a certain capacity to make their own weapons in kind of jungle plants using machine lathes and the like.

Lam: And so this weapons issue is not enough to jeopardise the peace process, is it?

Aspinall: No I don't think so. Moreover, there's no suggestion or there's been no suggestion so far that there's any organised movement amongst the former Free Aceh movement rebels to hold on to these weapons for purposes of re-starting an armed struggle. To the extent that weapons are still circulating and being used, these are mostly being used for criminal activities; armed robberies in people's houses, on some of the main roads and so on, in an unorganised way by people who are possibly disgruntled former rebels. There're no signs so far of any kind of sentiment for a return to armed struggle by any of the leaders or at least any significant leaders of the movement.

Lam: And Ed, the reintegration, rehabilitation of former GAM rebels back into the community was part of the peace agreement. From your observation is that happening?

Aspinall: Well yes and no. Many of the leaders of the movement in particular are of course being reintegrated very successfully. Many of them have in last December's elections won important positions in the executive government, at the regional and district level. So many of the most important government leaders in the province now are former rebels. Moreover many if you go slightly down the hierarchy, many leaders of the movement at the district level and so on are also becoming quite successful in business, often by accessing contracts, projects and so on being provided by the government. If you get right down to the grassroots however, although many ordinary fighters are benefitting from this privileged economic access being gained by their former commanders, many are not are benefitting quite as much. So do you get a sense of resentment at the grassroots amongst some former rebels, and indeed, a sense of an economic gap opening up between them and their former leaders.

LAM: Nonetheless though, do you see dreams of independence receding as the ordinary Acehnese see their lives improving?

Aspinall: I think certainly the independence goal as an explicit aim of any organised section of Acehnese society now has definitely receded. It's not on the agenda at the present time. To a large extent it's still, if I can mix metaphors, hovers just beneath the surface. You can talk to many former rebels and they say that well of course we understand now that we couldn't achieve independence by force of arms; however independence remains our dream or remains our goal. So there's no one actively working towards independence, but it would be premature to say that talk of independence has completely faded.

Aceh Referendum Information Center to form local political party

Aceh Kita - November 16, 2007

Fakhri, Banda Aceh – The Aceh Referendum Information Center (SIRA) plans to form a local political party in Aceh soon. They will be sounding this out during an event titled Two Great Discussions (Duek Pakat Raya, DPR), which is being organised by the SIRA Preparatory Committee for the Establishment of a Local Political Party. The event will be attended by some 180 participants from SIRA representative consulates throughout Aceh and will take place on November 16-18 at the Bintara Pieneung Building in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh.

SIRA's spokesperson, Muhammad Thaib (MTA), said that the group has already completed a political analysis and study, which showed the importance of taking part in enlivening democracy in Aceh. "We have now entered into the implementation and finalisation stage", said Thaib on Friday November 16.

According to Thaib, after the SIRA Party is formed, it is hopped that it will truly become a party of the Acehnese people. "The SIRA Party will be open to anyone, it won't be exclusive or dominated by [a particular] class", he said.

Thaib went on to say that the SIRA Party will remain the same as before, and must be able to struggle for the comprehensive rights of the people and become a political vehicle of struggle for the ordinary Acehnese people.

During the DPR forum a congress and simultaneous declaration of the SIRA Party will be held. Thaib said that the SIRA Party will represent a "child" born out of the SIRA organisation. "Meaning, that SIRA as an organisation will still exist and the SIRA Party will be one of its vehicles", he said. [adw]

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 Human rights/law

Deliberation of public info bill may end in a 'deadlock'

Jakarta Post - November 26, 2007

Irawaty Wardany, Jakarta – Deliberation of bill on access to information from public institutions within the House of Representatives could end in deadlock because the government wants an exception for state-owned enterprises, says a lawmaker.

"The deliberation may be deadlocked because we (legislators) disagree with the government which insists on excluding state enterprises from the draft," said Djoko Susilo, a member of the House' Commission I on information, defense and foreign affairs on Saturday.

He said the draft, now being debated by a House working committee, would probably go to a separate committee for further discussion.

"The team from the government fully insists on excluding state enterprises from the bill and would not mind if... (the result is) deadlock," he said.

Djoko said the government's rigid position showed it did not seek reform, which was ultimately contrary to the public interest.

"If the special committee fails to finish the draft then we may ask the House Speaker to send a letter to the President to let him know that his minister refuses the reform," Djoko said, referring to State Minister of State Enterprises Sofyan A. Djalil.

Paulus Widiyanto from the Coalition for the Freedom of Public Information told a discussion that the government did not have a good argument for excluding state enterprises from the bill.

"The state enterprises meet all the criteria as public institutions, they operate by using the people's money and they have public service obligations."

Moreover, he said the bill would clearly define what information pertaining to state enterprises would be accessible to the public and a provision existed in the draft for protecting certain categories of information, "if the government was worried that including state enterprises... would threaten their businesses." Andreas H. Pareira, also a member of the information, defense and foreign affairs commission, was of a similar view and pointed out that even the state intelligence agency did not oppose the bill.

Danang Widoyoko of Indonesian Corruption Watch said irregularities were common in state enterprises because of a lack of transparency.

"There were 166 corruption cases reported in 2006 with potential state losses of Rp 14.4 trillion (US$1.5 billion)," he said, adding that those cases were mostly found in state enterprises and regional administrations.

"These have happened because there is no law that assures access to information on those companies".

"Therefore we need to improve oversight of (state) companies, which would be easier if we had an access to public information bill."

Torture widespread in Indonesian prisons: UN envoy

Agence France Presse - November 23, 2007

Jakarta – Beatings and other forms of torture are entrenched in much of Indonesia's prison system, where a culture of impunity reigns, a UN envoy said Friday.

UN special rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak said vast improvements were needed to the prison system despite Indonesia's transition to democracy since dictator Suharto stepped down in 1998.

"Although Indonesia has come a long way in overcoming the legacy of the Suharto era in establishing a functioning democracy and the rule of law and the protection of human rights, in my specific area – torture and ill treatment – still much needs to be done," Nowak said.

Nowak said there was no evidence of systematic torture across Indonesia's prison and police detention systems.

However the absence of a specific law against torture and poor institutional oversight meant Indonesian prisoners were "extremely vulnerable" to torture, he said in his final report from his 16-day visit.

The UN representative was given open access to 24 Indonesian detention facilities across the sprawling archipelagic nation during his stay.

Torture was often used to extract confessions at Indonesia's police detention facilities, Nowak said, noting that prisoners often stayed more than 20 days in police detention before being charged.

The dominant method of torture was beating, with a smaller number of cases of prisoners being electrocuted and shot through the leg, Nowak said.

"In all the meetings with government officials, no one could cite one case in which a police officer was ever found guilty and sentenced by a criminal court for ill treatment or other abuse of a detainee," Nowak said. Evidence also existed of beatings against child prisoners, Nowak said.

Despite the grim picture, the UN representative said he found that torture was rare or nonexistent in some facilities, including the maximum security Nusa Kembangan island prison, which is home to the condemned Bali bombers.

He also said he heard few complaints of torture in Indonesia's restive Papua region, where activists agitating against Indonesian rule have been jailed.

The lack of mechanisms to prevent torture meant the attitude of the leadership of detention facilities determined the frequencies of abuse.

"The recommendations are clear: to fight impunity by making torture a crime; and by establishing effective independent complaints mechanisms so that perpetrators of torture can be brought to justice," Nowak said.

Indonesia is widely considered to have made significant democratic progress since the end of Suharto's oppressive 32-year rule.

However, the country's military, police and justice system have come under criticism for continued corruption and disregard for basic human rights.

UN urges Indonesia to tackle police abuses

Reuters - November 23, 2007

Ed Davies, Jakarta – Indonesia has made great strides combating rights abuses since autocratic president Suharto was ousted in 1998, but torture of detainees in police custody still appears rife, a UN investigator said on Friday.

Manfred Nowak, the UN special rapporteur on torture who is on a two-week tour of detention centres across Indonesia, said he had arrived at three police stations as beatings were actually in progress.

"The problem of police abuse appears to be sufficiently widespread as to warrant immediate attention," he said in a statement.

He said the types of police abuses reported, and backed up by medical examinations, included beatings by fists, rattan or wooden sticks, cables, iron bars and hammers.

In other instances, police had shot detainees in their legs from close range, or electrocuted them, he said, adding that in most cases the purpose appeared to be to extract confessions.

He urged Jakarta to speed up plans to make torture a crime and to ensure that perpetrators were brought to justice.

"In all the meetings with government officials nobody could cite one case in which a police officer was ever found guilty and sentenced by a criminal court for ill treatment or other abuse of a detainee," he told a news conference.

Nowak urged that the time a suspect could be held in police custody be limited to 48 hours, adding that detainees were more vulnerable to abuses because they were liable to spend many weeks or even months in police custody without seeing a judge.

He called for the settting up of an independent criminal investigation mechanism against alleged perpetrators of torture along with an effective complaints system.

Under Suharto's rule, which ended amid mass protests, security forces were routinely accused of abusing detainees.

Asked for his general conclusions on the situation in Indonesia now, he said: "Certainly I cannot find that torture is systematic in the country, it's systematic in a few places."

Nowak said that treatment in prisons he had visited appeared generally better, including in Papua where security forces have been accused of rights abuses. A low-level separatist insurgency has gone on for decades in the remote area.

He noted, however, serious overcrowding in Jakarta's Cipinang jail and the Pondok Bambu pre-trial detention facility.

He also expressed concern about the high death toll, often officially put down to natural causes, in some places of detention, where autopsies were rarely carried out. The UN investigator visited prisons, as well as police and military detention facilities in the capital Jakarta, Papua, South Sulawesi, Bali, Yogyakarta and Central Java.

He is to submit a full report on his findings to the UN Human Rights Council. (Editing by Roger Crabb)

Stop violence against children: Campaign

Jakarta Post - November 20, 2007

Jakarta – Pinching or slapping your child is not acceptable – and it's your responsibility to report others who do.

These messages make up part of the Stop Violence against Children Campaign launched in Jakarta on Monday by the State Ministry of Women's Empowerment and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).

State Minister for Women's Empowerment Meutia Hatta Swasono said she was concerned about a culture of violence flourishing in Indonesia.

"The recent bullying case of high school students in one of the best schools in Indonesia is an example of how this culture of violence takes its toll," Meutia said.

"Children brought up in violence have a higher tendency to practice violence and pass on the culture," she said, referring to her own bullying experiences in the 1950s.

Meutia then called for more involvement from the public.

She asked that people stay alert to the possibility of violence against children in their neighborhood and to report any suspicious incidents to the authorities. Unicef Representative in Indonesia Gianfranco Rotigliano said, "Like in many other countries, violence against children in Indonesia remains a hidden and widespread phenomenon".

"It knows no boundaries, targeting children from any social, ethnic or religious background.

"As many as 40 million children below the age of 15 (from) around the world experience violence and neglect," Rotigliano said.

Indonesia ratified the International Convention on the Rights of Children in 1990, which was followed by the 2002 law on child protection and the 2004 law on domestic violence.

Also on Monday Unicef announced its findings on abuse against children in Indonesia, saying 80 percent of the violence here was carried out by a person the child knew well.

It found 80 percent of teachers practiced physical punishment or conducted verbal abuse against students.

The findings revealed pinching was the most widespread form of corporal punishment, according to most respondents in North Sumatra, Central Java and South Sulawesi.

Irwanto said, "It is sad that physical punishment for children is considered culturally acceptable".

"Of course, in every case of physical abuse, the child will be affected psychologically.

"We have to realize that not doing anything to save these children is just another type of violence (against) their rights."

Bella Diniyah Putri, 15, chairperson of Lampung's Children's Commission and a recipient of the Unicef-Government of Indonesia's Youth Leadership Award in 2005, also said Indonesian children were still experiencing "sexual abuse, forced marriages and violent treatment from caretakers".

The Children's Best Friend Representative, Alyssa Soebandono, said children experiencing violence or neglect by their parents should call the toll-free Children's Best Friend Line (Telepon Sahabat Anak – TESA) at 129, launched in November 2006.

At the campaign launch Meutia handed out awards to the Kalibata Police Post, the Social Protection House for Children (RSPA) in Bambu Apus and the TESA 129 call-center team for their contributions to child protection, especially in handling kidnapped children.

She said there was an urgent need to change parents' mindsets and to educate children. (lva)

Review of 2004 banking laws 'needed'

Jakarta Post - November 19, 2007

Jakarta – The House of Representatives has been urged to review a number of laws relating to Bank Indonesia and other banking issues following allegations that funds had been transferred from the central bank to legislators.

"The laws need to be reviewed as there are indications funds had been used for 'political buying' practices," Adnan Topan Husodo of the Indonesian Corruption Watch said during a discussion on fund disbursements Saturday.

"For example, the deliberation process for the bills was faster compared to that of other bills." However, he did not provide further details.

Adnan filed a report with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Aug. 2 claiming Bank Indonesia officials had channeled some Rp 4.5 billion (US$483,000) for the dissemination of bills on bank liquidation, bankruptcy, the supervisory institution, banking, Bank Indonesia and the Bank Indonesia budget.

The bills were deliberated by House members from Commission IX overseeing finance affairs in the 1999-2004 period.

The KPK later revealed it had received a letter from BPK head Anwar Nasution on Nov. 14, 2006, claiming the illegal fund disbursement amounted to Rp 100 billion of which Rp 31.5 billion was used for the deliberation of bills.

But it was not until November this year that the KPK questioned 19 Bank Indonesia officials, including senior deputy governor Miranda Goeltom and deputy governor Bun Bunan Harahap.

Another speaker, BPK auditor Surahmin, said the central bank had at least one crucial point to be included in the bill on Bank Indonesia.

"During the deliberation, the central bank wanted to have sole authority to set the remunerations for its board of governors," he said.

"As if Bank Indonesia is a separate state because it wants to set its own budget." However, legislator Gayus Lumbuun said in the discussion it would be too hard to review all laws.

"Reviewing all laws would be too difficult while we are still going through the investigation process."

Gayus, deputy chairman of the House Honorary Council, said the council had the names of 16 former and active lawmakers who had allegedly received the funds.

The names, however, were being withheld during the council's investigation.

Adnan said the so-called political buying practice could only be proved once the legislators names were revealed.

"We also need to know where the funds went and prove that such payments are illegal."

Gayus, however, said such a practice was common, calling it "official lobbying".

"The purpose of lobbying is, of course, to steer the deliberation process toward a specific interest," he said.

"In other countries there are also laws regulating formal lobbying," he added, without citing any examples. (uwi)

Government told to review BNN performance, activities

Jakarta Post - November 19, 2007

Jakarta – The government should review the National Narcotics Agency (BNN)'s performance and its activities, which focus more on anti-drug campaigns rather than fighting drug syndicates, a legislator said Saturday.

"It is imperative for the government to review the BNN in order to deal with the increasing number of drug cases in the country," Sahrin Hamid, a member of the House of Representatives' Commission III overseeing law, legal and security affairs, said during a discussion on the fight against drugs.

He said the BNN should increase its activities to fight drug syndicates and arrest drug producers, since many BNN officials were police officers.

"They shouldn't only focus on anti-drug campaigns. The review must include a budget allocated to the agency so it can fight drug producers," Sahrin, who represents the National Mandate Party (PAN), was quoted as saying by Detik.com newsportal.

The agency, established in 2002 by then president Megawati Soekarnoputri, is loosely modeled on the US Drug Enforcement Administration. It is responsible for intelligence networking and investigating international drug syndicates that impact on Indonesia's counter-narcotics efforts.

The Saturday discussion highlighted the second arrest of veteran actor Roy Marten for possession of drugs in Surabaya. The Surabaya Police arrested Roy and three friends at a hotel Tuesday morning.

Police confiscated 43 grams of shabu-shabu or crystal methamphetamine from Roy, who was once jailed for nine months on drug-related charges.

Roy, who appeared in national anti-drug campaigns after his first arrest, had just witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the BNN and the Jawa Pos daily. Sahrin said Roy's second arrest would further damage the image of the BNN.

The secretary of the Cinta Anak Bangsa foundation, Iskandar Irwan Hukom, agreed that using Roy as a BNN icon in its anti-drug campaigns would ruin BNN's image.

"In Singapore, a person is only deemed drug-free after he or she has been clean for a period of five years, proven through tests," he said.

The BNN, however, denied reports Roy was its icon for its anti- drug campaigns.

Information bill going back to committee

Jakarta Post - November 16, 2007

Jakarta – The information, defense and foreign affairs commission at the House of Representatives will likely bring back a bill on free flow of public information so it can be discussed by a special committee.

Legislators said it would bring back the bill for discussion because the government and the House were deadlocked on the status of state enterprises.

The commission's deputy chairman Arief Mudatsir Mandan said a small team grouped to make final touches to the bill Thursday had failed to agree whether state-owned enterprises should be defined as public institutions or not.

"We are suspicious the government has a hidden agenda behind its rejection to define state enterprises as public institutions," Arief told The Jakarta Post.

He said the hidden agenda was linked with allegations state enterprises were "nests of corruption and money machines for government officials". "Otherwise, the public should (provide) open access to state enterprises," he said.

"We are open to a special exemption... certain sections of the state enterprises are kept closed to the public for secrecy and competitiveness reasons. But state enterprises in general should be transparent and accountable for good corporate governance."

 Labour issues

Inco strike ends, nickel price seen normal

Jakarta Post - November 26, 2007

Hundreds of workers of the country's largest nickel producer, PT Inco, in Soroako, South Sulawesi, ended their 11-day strike Sunday afternoon.

The strike ended following a series of bipartite negotiations between the management and workers at the mine site. Inco spokesman Jannus Siahaan told The Jakarta Post workers agreed to resume work Monday after the management agreed to fulfill their demands to provide production bonuses every quarter in 2008, give promotion priority to local workers and increase scholarship for workers' children to Rp 2.5 billion (US$266,000) annually from the current Rp 690 million.

Inco vice president Michael Winship said the management hoped workers would increase productivity to make up for the 5 million pounds of nickel lost during the strike. He said the company would pay 12 percent in production bonuses each quarter if the production target was reached and the nickel price recovered to US$13 per pound.

Inco workers continue to strike

Jakarta Post - November 21, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat and Andi Hajramurni, Jakarta/Makassar – Thousands of workers of publicly listed PT International Nickel Indonesia (Inco) entered the sixth day of their strike in Soroako, South Sulawesi, on Tuesday.

The workers were demanding a higher share in profits and promotions for local workers, threatening the country's largest nickel producer's operations.

Chairman of the Inco Workers Union Andi Karman said the workers decided to strike after collective bargaining with the management since last May failed to produce a resolution.

"The industrial strike is our last resort; to pressure the management into bowing down to our demands and it will continue until our demands are fulfilled," he told The Jakarta Post by telephone.

Andi said workers had the right to receive bigger bonuses following the company's high profit in this year's first two quarters, which was in line with rising nickel prices on the world market.

"We have demanded a 50-percent bonus increase in the first semester from the current 25 percent," he said.

He added the union had also been disappointed with the management's decision to recruit new management staff, instead of promoting field workers who had worked with the company for more than ten years.

Inco president director Arief Siregar was not available for comment. However, Inco spokesman Jannus Siahaan said his company could not meet the protesters' demands because they were not regulated in the company's collective labor agreement and the 2003 Labor Law.

"The management has shown its strong commitment to profit-sharing by improving workers' welfare, but it is impossible for the management to negotiate matters that are not regulated either in the Labor Law nor the collective labor agreement," he said.

He said the strike had affected the company's production but declined to specify by how much.

On a regular day, the company's nickel production can reach 2.5 million pounds a week.

Director General for industrial relations and social security programs at the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry, Myra Maria Hanartani, criticized the prolonged strike, saying workers and the management should go to the negotiating table to solve the industrial dispute.

She said the government could not interfere in the company's internal affairs since the management had not violated the Labor Law and the collective labor agreement.

She said the workers should initiate a dialogue, rather than continue to strike, as the company had complied with all regulations.

Chairman of the Indonesian Mining Association (Perhapi), Irwandy Arif, concurred and said the dispute could be a bad precedence for other mining companies if Inco's management met the workers' demands.

"Employers have the obligation to respect their workers' rights but workers should be aware of what their rights are, as regulated by the law and the collective labor agreement," he said, adding workers wouldn't get a cut in their monthly salaries if the management suffered losses.

 Environment/natural disasters

Experts warn more disasters

Jakarta Post - November 26, 2007

Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta – Environmental experts gathered here Saturday to discuss continuing environmental degradation resulting from economic and population growth.

Association of Indonesian Environmental Experts chairman Hasroel Thayib warned that the country was facing more natural disasters as a result of poor environmental management in the past.

"Let's study the roots (of the disasters) planted 40 years ago and try to seek solutions to mitigate the likely serious consequences in the future," Hasroel said.

"It is not the right time for us to blame one another... Perhaps, we are all guilty in this case." Over 300 environmental experts from provinces across the country took part in the association's first-ever congress, with the main items of business being to elect a new chairman and formulate work programs.

The association was set up in 2005 with 600 members, including academics, government officials and activists.

State Minister for the Environment Rachmat Witoelar and environment guru Emil Salim also attended the congress. Emil served as environment minister for three consecutive periods from 1978 until 1993 during the presidency of Soeharto.

In his speech, Emil blamed environmental degradation on sectoral egoism at the governmental level and politicians with short-term goals focused on economic growth.

"In a conventional economic system, companies do not pay for pollution," he said. "Thus, a strong commitment from environmental experts is crucial to achieving sustainable development."

Emil, who is now an environmental advisor to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, identified at least three crucial problems facing the environment.

First was the significant rise in the number of people migrating to Java, the country's most populated island, where 65 percent of the urban population is young, he explained.

He said that the booming economies of China and India, as well as the ASEAN free market, would be another challenge for Indonesia's development program in the 2009 to 2030 period.

Meanwhile, global warming, triggering warmer temperatures and a rise in sea level, would pose a massive threat to the environment, he stressed.

Emil, who will chair the Indonesian delegation to the upcoming climate change conference in Bali, said Indonesia needed to promote sustainable development that integrated economic, social and environmental considerations.

Meanwhile, Minister Rachmat admitted that the state of the environment was critical, causing huge damage to the country's ecology, as well as economic problems.

"Environmental degradation has even caused social problems, such as poverty and increased risk of health problems and the emergence of plant diseases," he said.

He said sustainable development should focus on pro-growth, pro-poor and pro-employment programs.

"I hope the experts will give voice to environmental interests and come up with scientific solutions for environment-related problems," Rachmat said.

Government prepares to plant 79 million trees

Jakarta Post - November 24, 2007

Jakarta – The government is very optimistic that its effort to present a gift to the world by planting 79 million trees next week will make a significant contribution toward curbing global warming.

The planting, to take place on Nov. 28, has been designed a national event in which people at around 79,000 locations all over Indonesia will plant trees at exactly the same time.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will kick off the action from Jonggol, West Java, at 9 a.m., while people in the middle and eastern parts of Indonesia will carry out the planting at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively.

Forestry Minister M.S. Ka'ban said the campaign related to Indonesia's role as the host of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in December.

During the Bali meetings, Indonesia will propose a scheme called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries (REDD). The scheme is expected to provide an opportunity for countries willing to conserve their forests be compensated financially for each ton of carbon gas the forests absorb.

"Over the next three years, the trees can be expected to grow to around two meters high and start effectively absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2). One hectare of land packed with six-year-old trees can absorb around 200 tons of CO2 per year," Ka'ban said during a press conference at the Forestry Ministry on Friday.

He hoped the world would see the effort as a strong signal that Indonesia was serious about the REDD proposal. He added that it would be unfair if Indonesia had to bear the responsibility of preserving its forests, losing its right to benefit from them, while other countries enjoy the outcome for free.

"At least Rp 216 trillion is needed for replanting all of Indonesia's forests that have been damaged," he said.

He explained that the total cost for the 79-million-tree planting campaign would be around Rp 1.28 trillion (US$136.7 million). "The fund was generated from forestry businessmen all over Indonesia, while almost all of the seedlings come from the Forestry Ministry stockpiles."

The committee chairman for the campaign, Soetino Wibowo, explained that the target number of 79 million trees was based on the total number of state institutions throughout Indonesia that would participate.

"We have around 79,000 state institutions, the national, provincial, regental, district and sub-district and municipal levels, as well as the police and military branches. Every institution will plant at least 1,000 trees. However, we are sure that they can do more," Soetino said.

He also said that the planting campaign would be followed up by efforts to care for the trees over the next three years. "The first three years are the most critical period of growth," he said. (uwi)

Governor sued over polluted river

Jakarta Post - November 23, 2007

Surabaya, East Java – Members of the group Environmental Watch in Surabaya filed a lawsuit against East Java Governor Imam Utomo on Thursday. The suit seeks to hold the governor responsible for the high level of pollution in Surabaya River.

Lawyers from the Surabaya Legal Aid Foundation are representing the environmental group in the suit.

Director of the legal foundation, Syaiful Aris, said the governor should be held responsible for pollution in the river. He said independent analysis had found the level of contaminants in the river far exceeded acceptable limits.

"Before we filed the lawsuit with the Surabaya court, we twice sent legal reprimands to the governor, but he never responded," said Aris.

He said the East Java Environmental Impact Management Agency (Bapedalda) was also named in the lawsuit.

Surabaya River is one of the main sources of water for residents of the city.

Director of Ecological Observation and Wetland Conservation (ECOTON), Prigi Arisandi, said the Surabaya River had been polluted by industrial waste since 1999.

He said there had been instances over the years of hundreds of fish washing up dead in the river, but the administration had never taken steps to deal with the pollution.

"Despite the pollution, a large number of Surabaya's residents still depend on the river for their drinking water," he said.

He said the administration had failed to supervise and monitor the numerous factories along the river.

ECOTON investigations have found that at least 80 percent of the factories are not equipped with proper waste treatment facilities.

Lawyers call for unity against illegal logging

Jakarta Post - November 23, 2007

Jakarta – Bewildering Indonesian forestry regulations and chaotic inter-departmental coordination have contributed to the government's inability to handle illegal logging cases, experts say.

Lawyer Bambang Widjojanto said there were at least three core issues related to illegal logging; a lack of political will, unclear licensing procedures and insufficient control measures.

He said the government's political will was needed in order to harmonize the laws and coordinate the institutions related to forestry. "The conflicting Indonesian laws on forestry should be resolved. Some of the laws on deforestation and illegal logging include the Forestry Law, the Conservation Law and the Corruption Law," Bambang said in a discussion Thursday on illegal logging cases in Indonesia.

The conflict among these laws has resulted in the controversy surrounding how a license to utilize forest areas should be issued, thus providing a loophole for illegal loggers.

"The main grounds for almost every court decision to release illegal logging suspects has been because the suspects already had licenses to manage particular forest areas, including taking timber from those areas. Or, they had already applied for licenses but had not received them," Bambang said.

He added, however, it was actually possible to indict license holders with the existing criminal laws. "Even though they have licenses, they can still be charged under criminal laws, especially if they cause environmental damage."

Bambang said license violations were only seen as procedural or administrative breaches, not criminal acts, even though the violations caused negative impacts, such as triggering floods, landslides or other disasters.

Commenting on this issue, two other law experts – Sulaiman Sembiring and Rudy Satrio – agreed the inability of Indonesian law enforcers to effectively apply the law provided opportunities for illegal loggers in the country.

"No matter how many laws a country has, the conditions will never change if law enforcement is weak," said Sulaiman, an environmental law expert.

He said the factors that needed improvement included the quality of the state apparatus, the culture of society and law enforcement infrastructure.

Rudy said in this era of autonomy, it has become harder for the central government to control its apparatus in the regions, particularly those with forest-based economies.

"Thus, the Forestry Ministry needs to strengthen its local offices in the regions," said Rudy, a criminal law expert from the University of Indonesia.

Both experts agreed there was a need to categorize forestry crime as a transnational crime.

"Usually, the demand for timber comes from foreign buyers. Almost all illegal timber is sold outside of Indonesia," Bambang said.

"Still, in this case, we first need to resolve the conflicting regulations and strengthen our inter-departmental coordination. Only then will we be ready to bring this case to the international level." (uwi)

Government warned of climate change impacts

Jakarta Post - November 23, 2007

Jakarta – Researchers graduating from Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) have called on the government to pay serious attention to a range of issues to help Indonesia better deal with the devastating impacts of globally-anticipated climate change.

The experts said they would coordinate with the Ministry of Environment to particularly include those living below the poverty line into the agenda for the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held in December in Bali

Endra Saleh Atmawidjaja is an urban expert from ITB and said the government should focus more on urban planning and development, rather than better managing waste to prevent environmental damage.

"Some 30 percent of city land should be used as green public space," Endra said. "Malls only become artificial public space... not able to absorb water, (as) parks do."

The various concepts by the researchers would be presented at the Bali conference. Their research and various ideas are expected to support efforts to minimize the effects of climate change on developing countries due to the overuse of oil, gas and coal.

The implementation of agreements on this issue, like the Kyoto Protocol and the UNFCCC, has been slow, with some developed countries having refused to sacrifice industry to push down levels of green house gas emissions.

Irendra Radjawali is a tropical marine ecology expert and said, "The poor will suffer most... they don't have the power to adapt to the changes affecting their lives".

"The right preventive actions are needed and research is an important tool... to predict possible disasters," Irendra said.

And Endra said, "We strongly suggest providing complete data for the vulnerability index to measure the estimations precisely".

Dida Gardera, spokesman for the Ministry of Environment said, "By 2050, the increasing amount of sea water due to global warming is expected to inundate 2,000 islands in Indonesia".

Endra said, "By using this index, we will be able to figure out which islands will be inundated first, then we will prepare the right actions for that".

The vulnerability index, Endra said, was also expected to able to identify different approaches in different sectors. "The anticipation for prevention in urban areas will differ from that in rural areas," he said.

One of the major concerns about the effects of global warming is the increasing level of urbanization.

Climate changes will decrease supplies of clean water as well as accelerate the loss of land mass, which would force rural people to relocate to urban areas.

Endra said this issue would expand political instability and lead to the decline of foreign investment in Indonesia. (rff)

Green groups want end to mining in forests

Jakarta Post - November 21, 2007

Desy Nurhayati, Jakarta – Environmental groups urged the government Tuesday to stop issuing concessions for mining companies at protected forests, to avoid further forest conversions.

The groups said the government's commitment to participate in global efforts to minimize the effects of climate change, including reducing CO2 emission through reforestation, was dubious because at the same time it continued to give new concessions for mining companies in protected forests.

The groups consist of the Mining Advocacy Community Network (JATAM), the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) and Indonesian Center for Environmental Law.

"The government has neglected the fact that our country has the world's highest deforestation rate of two million hectares per year and continue to issue new concessions," Siti Maemunah of JATAM told a media conference.

"At the same time, the government tells global forums that it is committed to taking part in any efforts to handle climate change effects including through the reduction of carbon emission resulted from forest destruction."

The groups also criticized the government's plan to implement a policy on allowing forests to be converted into mining areas but obliging the companies to give compensation in form of non-tax revenue.

Torry Kuswardono of Walhi said, "the plan shows the government's weakness to uphold its commitment in environmental efforts when it comes to business interests."

The non-tax revenue policy will replace the current policy of obliging mining companies to substitute the converted areas with other land.

"If the conversion of protected forests into mining areas continues, Indonesia will be condemned by international community for failing to reduce carbon emission since mining is a major contributor of deforestation and carbon emission," Torry said.

Currently, there are 13 mining companies that have obtained operation licenses from the government through a 2004 presidential decree. It is estimated that the companies have released between 185 and 251 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere.

The 13 giant companies mostly operate in provinces across Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Maluku, including in conservation areas, and have received complaints from people living around the mining areas.

The groups said that as of 2001, there were 158 licenses of large-scale mining operation that converted 11.4 million hectares of protected forests out of a total 30 million hectares.

"If the government really commits to environmental efforts, it should take immediate actions to stop the conversion of protected forests into mining areas and conduct a reassessment on mining activities," Siti said.

Separately in Bogor, researchers from the World Agroforestry Center, the Center for International Forestry Research and their Indonesian partners reported the conversion of forests and peatlands had generated very little profit, despite the huge amount of emitted carbon.

The research, conducted between 1999 and 2005 in three provinces – East Kalimantan, Jambi and Lampung, revealed the provinces emitted 400 mega-tons of CO2 per year from land conversion, but less than 2 percent of the emission resulted in profit of more than US$15 per ton CO2.

Therefore, the researchers said, it is possible to substantially reduce CO2 emission in the country without a major impact to its economy.

Agency confident of mud cleanup

Jakarta Post - November 20, 2007

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, Malang – Cleanup work to flush away mud deposits from the Porong River in Sidoarjo, East Java, to the sea during the rainy season would not cause problems, an official said.

The statement came from the new managing director of the East Java Jasa Tirta state river management agency (PJT), Tjoek Waluyo, who was recently appointed in Malang.

He said the company had successfully flushed away mud sediment several times previously using river water at volumes ranging between 50 to 200 cubic meters per second, combined with the use of dredgers owned by the Sidoarjo Mudflow Mitigation Agency (BPLS).

PJT had earlier dredged and cleared a silted-up area near the mud disposal pipes using a volume of water from upstream.

"The biggest volume of water we released to wash away the mud was 208 cu.m. per second and the result was positive. The diluted mud was able to flow out to sea," Tjoek told reporters.

Tjoek said the biggest volume of water Porong River had ever contained was recorded at 1,500 cu.m. per second during the floods of March 2002.

The agency, he said, released a considerable volume of water because the river functioned as a flood control waterway for the Brantas River to prevent floods in Surabaya.

"Flushing the mud with 200 cu.m. per second of water was enough to push it out to sea, let alone the 1,500 cu.m. that came later," he said.

He said residents shouldn't be worried about the possibility of floods occurring during the rainy season, as problem areas would be dredged.

Tjoek said the BPLS had placed a number of dredgers at the downstream area near the Porong River delta and at the mud disposal pipes.

"The BPLS has deployed a large dredger at the mouth of the river to remove mud blockage in the delta area and a couple along the river," he said.

The PJT assured the cleanup process would not disrupt the Brantas River management system.

Tjoek said some of the water used to flush away the mud deposits originated from the Sutami Dam in Karangkates, Malang regency, which acts as a flood control facility, irrigation system, source of clean water and power generating source for Java and Bali.

He added the PJT would only use a small amount of water for the cleanup process, while the rest would be taken from the Brantas River.

"So, don't be worried the cleanup operation would affect other (waterways). We have already sorted this matter. The dam operation system will remain in control."

Separately, director general of water resources at the State Ministry of State Enterprises Iwan Nursyirwan Diar gave his assurance there would not be any changes to the main function of Porong River as a flood control means for Brantas River.

"I guarantee the Porong River's function as a flood control waterway will remain effective," Iwan said.

He praised efforts made by the PJT and the BPLS in the cleanup process, saying a combination of dredging and flushing would achieve a favorable result.

"We will continue to deposit mud into the Porong River because this is the government arrangement."

The agency has also carried out other measures to combat possible impacts the cleanup drive may cause, such as restoring and reinforcing Porong River embankments.

"We have also repaired the dike we earlier dismantled to make way for a dredger," Iwan said.

Greenpeace tanker blockade fails in Indonesia

Agence France Presse - November 16, 2007

Jakarta – A tanker loaded with more than 30,000 tons of palm oil forced its way out of an Indonesian port after a nine-hour stand off with a Greenpeace ship, activists said Saturday.

"The Westama pushed us away and forced their way out," Greenpeace's Sue Connor said. "They tried to leave at midnight after they finished loading. We tried to hold them off as long as possible."

Police had boarded the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior, several times on Friday in Riau province's Dumai port.

Greenpeace is calling for the Indonesian government to implement a moratorium on deforestation and peatland destruction.

Palm oil plantations are rapidly expanding in Indonesia as global demand explodes – because it is seen as a green alternative to fossil fuels. It is also used in a range of consumer products such as cosmetics and biscuits. The Rainbow Warrior is in Indonesia ahead of a global climate change conference taking place in Bali next month.

NGOs question carbon trading for Indonesia

Jakarta Post - November 16, 2007

Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta – A coalition of NGOs and local civil societies has asked developed countries to make drastic reductions in harmful gas emissions at a national level, rather than through carbon trading.

They said Thursday emission cuts from the carbon credit system could not be applied to meet commitments of countries listed in "annex I" of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The Protocol, agreed to in 1997 by 189 nations, says developed nations must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent from their 1990 levels, from next year and through to 2012.

However the Protocol also says developing countries can host green projects where credit points (one point being a ton of carbon valued up to US$10) can be traded with developed countries who have committed to cut emissions.

"It is not fair if the rich nations keep emitting emissions and run business as usual, but then push the poor countries to develop a clean development mechanism," Nur Hidayati, Greenpeace's climate and energy campaigner said.

She was addressing a media briefing on the establishment of the civil society forum for climate justice (CSF).

To realize "climate justice", she said developed nations should cut emissions in their own countries, "because they are historically responsible for global warming".

Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, among others from fossil fuels used in transportation and industries.

She said developing countries including Indonesia were more vulnerable to any impacts of climate change.

Thirty local non-government organizations, including the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi), the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (Kehati), Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Conservation International, Forest Watch Indonesia, Secretariat of Unity Indonesia and satudunia portal have joined the CSF with a view to voicing their concerns during the climate change conference in Bali in December.

Nur said the Bali meeting must also ensure the commitment of both the United States and Australia to cut emissions. Until now, the two countries have not ratified the Protocol, citing fears of loss to their economies.

The UN Executive Board, which is responsible for the CDM project, in August had approved 819 projects worldwide.

Pantoro Tri Kuswardono of the Walhi's national executive board said climate change talks in Bali seemed to be focused toward carbon trading issues alone. "The emission problem is not only about who produces what, but who benefits from it," he said.

The high greenhouse gas emissions released from Indonesia's forestry sector was also due to high demand for the wood products from developed countries," Pantoro said. "But the rich then call us to protect our forests. Is it fair?" he said.

Pantoro said the international institutions including the World Bank should halt funding projects that emitted carbon emissions.

 Gender issues

Violence law 'fails to protect women'

Jakarta Post - November 26, 2007

Jakarta – The 2004 Law on the Eradication of Domestic Violence has not stopped violence against women, because the applicable punishments were unclear, a women's coalition said.

"Domestic violence cases keep increasing because the law consists only of prohibitions and no clear legal punishment," Secretary General of the Indonesian Women Coalition, Masruchah, told detik.com Saturday.

She said the country's legal system had also failed to protect women and that 25 percent of 39 violence-related criminal cases reported had instead seen women as the offenders.

Nurhermawati from the Legal Aid Foundation of the Women Association for Justice (LBH-APIK) said judges often ignored violence experienced by women.

"Women who experience domestic violence have mostly found it difficult to prove themselves not guilty because they cannot provide the number of witnesses or evidence as required by the law," she said.

Women demand 30% quota for House representation

Jakarta Post - November 26, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesian women stepped up the demand to gain 30 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives by marching through Jakarta's main thoroughfare Sunday.

State Minister for Women's Empowerment Meutia Farida Swasono joined as many as 200 women from various NGOs in their walk from the National Monument square to the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle.

The rally participants wore headbands which read "30 percent for women" while a huge banner called for 30 percent female representation in political bills "to eliminate injustice and discrimination in Indonesia". The rally leader, Lolit, shouted: "30 percent of the quota, right now!" as quoted by detik.com newsportal.

Article 6 (1) of the 2003 General Election Law says every political party may allocate 30 percent of their House and local council seats to women. There are now calls to make the minimum 30 percent female quota mandatory, rather than a voluntary requirement, in the bill on general elections currently being deliberated at the House.

Activists believe the bill is not strong enough to make parties allocate 30 percent of their seats to women.

Deputy chairwoman of the National Commission on Women, Ninik Rahayu, told The Jakarta Post the implementation of the 30 percent minimum quota was still being hampered by the patriarchal values strongly embedded in political parties.

"The current political system does not penalize parties that fail to fulfill the minimum quota," she said over the phone. "Parties often place female candidates at the bottom of the list."

Ninik said the minimum quota should be applied not only for legislature candidates but also for party memberships.

Currently, women make up some 11 percent of the House members and 21 percent in the Regional Representatives Council (DPD).

Ninik said women should be given the opportunity to develop their political and managerial skills, therefore less qualified candidates should be considered, as they would develop over time.

Jeirry Sumampow, of the People's Voter Education Network, supported the affirmative action but said female candidates were still behind male candidates in terms of quality.

"Affirmative action for women is needed so they can have the same opportunities to be elected into legislatures as men," he told the Post. "It's quite difficult to expect parties to improve the skills and capabilities of their female members to compete with male candidates."

Jeirry said women's organizations outside the parties should provide political training for women. (rff)

More women in power needed, says seminar

Jakarta Post - November 23, 2007

Jakarta – A national seminar on women and political participation recommended Thursday women seek entry to the political arena by demanding more authority for the Regional Representatives Council (DPD), which currently has the largest number of female representatives.

DPD Chairman Ginandjar Kartasasmita said the relatively large role of women in the DPD had little impact on politics, because the council itself lacked legislative authority.

"I'm not sure that the situation will change, unless Indonesia expands the DPD's legislative authority," Ginandjar said.

Some 11 percent of the House of Representatives is currently female, but female politicians make up 21 percent of the DPD.

Ginandjar said there were "no systemic obstacles" for women to become fully involved within the legislature.

"Our constitution is gender-equal and the laws we have do not discourage female politicians, although they also do not encourage their involvement," Ginandjar said.

Gusti Kanjeng Ratu Hemas, head of the Caucus of Female Parliamentary Members in Indonesia (KPP RI), reminded the seminar that the struggle for women to be included in politics shouldn't be reduced to the formal quota of 30 percent within the House.

This is the percentage advocated by the United Nations to ensure an adequate voice in any debate. "Women need to be involved in the making of regulations related to sensitive issues like education and health," Gusti said.

"There are more things to think about than debating over such figures."

Gusti said political parties often came up with different kinds of excuses for not being able to include an adequate number of female candidates.

A political observer from the School of Philosophy at the University of Indonesia, Rocky Gerung, said people should consider affirmative action from a different perspective.

"The 30 percent quota should be seen as a cultural debt our patriarchal nation had to pay, with large political interest," Rocky said.

"Encouraging women's involvement in the legislature should come naturally, as an investment'," he said.

Head of Ad Hoc Commission IV of the Regional Representatives Council, Eka Komariah Kuncoro, said women should start advocating more gender-sensitive budgeting.

"The allocated national budget for women's empowerment is only 0.1 percent, while the suggested minimum is 5 percent," Eka said.

"We need more women to be in the position to make a change."

The national seminar titled "Reflective Evaluation of and Setting Up the Agenda for Women's Activity in the Parliament" was held by KPP RI and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) project, the Parliamentary Reform Initiative, and DPD Empowerment (PRIDE). It was held at the Gran Mahakam Hotel in South Jakarta.

The seminar also recommended the government consider the possibility of clearing the way for DPD members to become candidates for the House. (lva)

Women's rights defenders to get more support

Jakarta Post - November 24, 2007

Desy Nurhayati, Jakarta – A fund-raising drive is planned to raise money for the support of women's activists dealing with the issue of gender violence. Jointly organized by the National Commission on Violence against Women and 26 other organizations, the 16-day fund-raising campaign will include an art exhibition beginning Nov. 25, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

The commission's deputy chairwoman, Sylvana Maria Apituley, said Friday this year's campaign was aimed at providing additional support for NGOs dealing with women issues, as well as for women human rights defenders nationwide, who often face violence themselves.

"Amid the increasing number of cases of violence against women, the NGOs, whose duty is to provide support for victims of violence, still lack facilities. Sometimes, women activists have to use their own resources for the sake of defending victims," Sylvana said.

"This campaign is a tribute to the activists and is expected to raise public awareness" of their work.

Women activists are much more vulnerable to violence and discrimination than their male counterparts, according to a 2005-2006 study conducted by the commission.

The study was a result of a series of discussions with 58 women activists from around the country.

Specifically, it found they are more vulnerable to sexual violence, including rape, sexual torture and sexual harassment.

According to data from the commission, there were 22,512 cases of violence against women during 2006, as reported by 258 NGOs nationwide.

"Besides, the campaign is also aimed at collecting funding to be disbursed to their organizations so they will be able to improve their facilities," Sylvana said.

She said the proceeds of the art exhibition, titled "Karya untuk Kawan" (Artwork for Friends), would be donated to 25 women's crisis centers throughout the country.

Citra Smala Dewi of the Jakarta Institute of Art, which is organizing the exhibition, said the event would display 50 works of art, including paintings, ceramics, sculptures and graphic designs, from 31 artists.

"Some of the works deal with women's issues, especially about the patriarchal culture that remains strong in our society," Citra said.

The art exhibition will be open to the public from Nov. 26 to Dec. 6 at the National Gallery on Jl. Medan Merdeka Timur in Central Jakarta. Works are on sale for between Rp 5 million (US$534) and Rp 75 million each.

 Health & education

Integrated efforts for sanitation required

Jakarta Post - November 20, 2007

The increasing number of diarrhea cases, blamed on poor sanitation, has stirred the government to conduct integrated efforts to improve sanitation in Indonesia.

State Minister for Development Planning Paskah Suzetta said diarrhea was generally caused by low quality drinking water and poor sanitation systems.

"The high number of children suffering from diarrhea and malaria each year shows the handling of sanitation is still facility focused, as opposed to management system focused," Paskah said Monday at the opening of a national conference to accelerate sanitation development.

In addition, he said, the lack of public awareness about a healthy environment, the absence of a comprehensive cross-sector policy on basic sanitation facilities and the provision of inappropriate technology had hampered the improvement of the country's sanitation systems.

"To manage these problems, the government should cooperate with the private sector to create, build and facilitate cheap and proper sanitation systems," Paskah said.

He said funding was one of the most important considerations in improving the country's sanitation system.

"The opening of funding sources, either from domestic financial agencies or bilateral and multilateral cooperation... for the development of sanitation facilities, will encourage local administrations to employ the mutual endowment method of cooperation, and can be expected to improve sanitation services."

The government estimates mover than 80 percent of Indonesia's underground water in urban areas has been contaminated with Escherichia coli bacteria due to poor sanitation systems, causing 50 in every 1,000 children under five years old to die from complications related to diarrhea.

Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said the key to managing underground water was to have good waste management based on community involvement.

"Some areas already have final dumping sites but they lack operational sources. We will give them both technical assistance and equipment," he said. (JP/ndr)

Condoms, education key to curb STDs

Jakarta Post - November 17, 2007

Jakarta – A Dutch-based non-profit organization has offered the Indonesian government assistance in promoting safe sex among youth, to curb the spread of the HIV virus and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Indonesia.

Jippy Foundation director Roger Kiekens praised the government's plan to introduce "National Condom Week", and emphasized the need for access to cheap, good quality condoms and education programs.

"The upcoming campaign is a good idea but the government needs to make sure people have access to cheap condoms," Kiekens told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

"Everyone in the world has the right to have safe sex. The government can run campaigns promoting condoms but if (people) can only find condoms they can't afford, the campaign will not work."

Jippy Foundation is a Dutch-based non-profit youth organization involved in educational and preventative work in the field of safe sex.

The foundation works with governments in several countries including Malaysia and the United Kingdom, to educate young people about safe sex, promote affordable condoms and provide other information.

Kiekens said, in addition to providing affordable condoms and educating people on proper condom use, information on STDs would help prevent the spread of infections in Indonesia.

"The government can't close their eyes or hide this condition under the rug,"

He said the private sector should get involved in efforts to stop the spread of STDs. "Nightclubs, where many youths hang out, should stop thinking only about profits and start involving themselves in promoting safe sex by providing condoms on their premises," Kiekens said.

Recent data from the Health Ministry shows there are some 5,000 people infected with the HIV virus and more than 10,000 people living with AIDS in Indonesia.

The government will hold the country's first ever National Condom Week starting Dec. 1 which will coincide with the commemoration of international HIV/AIDS Day.

The activities will include free condom giveaways and a public awareness campaign targeting public transportation drivers and students, involving religious leaders, cultural figures and entertainers.

"This campaign will promote condoms for contraception," National Family Planning Coordinating Board spokesman Ipin Husni told the Post over the phone.

 War on corruption

Ex-aide testifies against Soeharto

Jakarta Post - November 21, 2007

Jakarta – Former president Soeharto's long-time finance minister Ali Wardhana told a civil court hearing Tuesday he was coerced by Soeharto in 1976 to issue a decree requiring banks to siphon funds into the then president's foundation.

Ali worked as finance minister from 1968 until 1983 and said he initially refused Soeharto's 1976 order to transfer the money to Supersemar Scholarship Foundation.

But he said two years later, after the president had insisted the money would be used for educational and social purposes, he implemented the request.

"President Soeharto summoned me to his office (in 1978) demanding to know why I had refused his request," Ali told the South Jakarta district court, as reported by Antara.

The civil case seeks to recoup the US$420 million and Rp 185.9 billion in state monies that Supersemar allegedly misused.

Attorneys trying the civil case also want Rp 10 trillion in immaterial loses.

The decree Ali issued in 1978 required that state-owned banks siphon half their net profits to Soeharto's foundation.

The issuance followed a 1976 ministerial decree on the use of state banks' net profit.

"At first, I was opposed to the idea of transferring state bank profits to the private sector," Ali told the court.

"This explains why I put off (Soeharto's) request for (more than) two years."

But Ali said he eventually issued the decree with a clause requiring the social affairs and education ministers to closely control the fund.

Statistics from the Development Finance Controller show Supersemar managed to gather Rp 1.25 trillion from state banks and other sources until June 30, 1998 – one month after Soeharto's downfall.

Politics still a factor in graft probes, say observers

Jakarta Post - November 17, 2007

Jakarta – The Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) decision to halt an investigation into non-budgetary funds in the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries shows that political power still comes into play in Indonesia's anti-corruption enforcement, law experts say.

"KPK's reason for stopping the investigation – because there's not enough evidence – is baseless," Denny Indrayana from Yogyakarta's Gadjah Mada University told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

"Testimony of Rokhmin Dahuri at trial and recognition from Amien Rais are unavoidable evidence that there is corruption here." Rokhmin is a former maritime and fisheries minister who was convicted of graft.

Denny added that this case was unlikely to be settled as it involved the political elite. "In Indonesia, political corruption is an area that's difficult for the law to touch, because people who have access here are still exerting influence."

Emerson Juntho from the Indonesia Corruption Watch said that the KPK would usually back off if the case it was handling involved political interests.

"It's clear that the KPK still discriminates among the corruption cases reported to them. KPK usually withdraws when it comes to politics involving legislators. They're only dealing with small cases which are unrelated to politics," Emerson told the Post.

"As a super-body, they have great authority in resolving cases. It's just that they don't want to resolve them."

KPK's chairman Taufiequrrahman Ruki, who will end his tenure in December, said there were four reasons for stopping the investigation.

First, the funds were used by Rokhmin to support the ministry's official tasks under his leadership.

Second, some of the funds went to the House of Representatives. "The funds were used for administrative fees in trials, and also for meals for staffers. So how can that be called graft?" Taufiequrrahman said as quoted by detik.com.

Third, he said, the funds were disbursed to individuals outside of public offices, so that it could not be categorized as corruption, and the recipients would not have known whether the money was linked to corruption.

"The last point, which is still under our investigation, is the disbursement of funds for groups, which were used for the personal enrichment of one individual," he said.

The ministry received non-budgetary funds totaling Rp 11.39 billion (US$1.24 million) from fishery agencies throughout the country and several businessmen during Rokhmin's tenure.

Those businessmen include Dicky Iskandar Dinata (Rp 150 million), Husni Manggabarani (US$5,000), David Lazarus Simbar (Rp 1.5 billion), Paskah Gumilang (Rp 55 million), Sofyan Basyir (Rp 100 million), Glen Glenardi (Rp 100 million), Sumpeno Putro (Rp 90 million) and the Tama family (US$400,000).

In July, Rokhmin was sentenced to seven years in prison and fined Rp 250 million in addition to being required to return Rp 1.31 billion of funds that had been collected and used illegally. Rokhmin is preparing to appeal the decision.

Denny said that the halting of the investigation would not change the decision in the Rokhmin case, saying that Rokhmin admitted that he had collected and used the money.

Meanwhile, Rokhmin refused to comment on the termination of the investigation. "I will only focus on my appeal," Rokhmin told detik.com.

Police probe bribery in Adelin case

Jakarta Post - November 17, 2007

Jakarta – A police officer in North Sumatra was replaced Friday for ignoring orders to arrest Adelin Lis, the fugitive acquitted of illegal logging and corruption, a high-ranking police official said.

As part of further investigations into the high-profile case, police are also planning to question several witnesses from Adelin's trial.

They cited suspicions of bribery behind the withdrawal of their testimony against the businessman, who was charged with causing losses of Rp 119.8 billion (US$2 million) and US$2.9 million to the state through illegal logging and corruption.

National Police chief of detectives Comr. Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri said Sr. Comr. Artsianto Darmawan, deputy head of the general crimes unit at the North Sumatra Police, was removed from his post for disciplinary reasons.

Though acquitted of illegal logging and corruption and released from a jail in Medan on Nov. 5, police now want to detain and question Adelin over money laundering charges.

"Artsianto knew the police still had pending cases against Adelin and were planning to arrest him once he was released from jail, but he didn't do anything about it?" Bambang said, as quoted by Antara news agency.

Artsianto has been transferred to the Police Staff college, and has been replaced by Adj. Sr. Comr. Darmawan Sutawijaya.

Adelin, the financial director of PT Keang Nam Development Indonesia, was indicted for violating the laws on corruption and the forestry industry. He was facing a possible 10 years in jail and a fine of Rp 1 billion (around $111,000), in addition to having to refunding all state losses.

However, the panel of judges at the Medan District Court hearing the case said the prosecution failed to prove the charges against Adelin.

The verdict outraged many, who became even more upset when the judges who heard the case received promotions. A junior attorney general, MS Rahardjo, said Friday the prosecutors who prepared the indictment in Adelin Lis' trial would be investigated.

 Land/rural issues

Yogyakarta dry, farmers fear wet season may end before it begins

Jakarta Post - November 24, 2007

Slamet Susanto, Yogyakarta – It has not rained in Yogyakarta for the past 10 days, and the local farmers are concerned this will lead to poor harvests.

Besides rice seedlings, thousands of hectares of side crops, including ground nuts and corn, are also facing water shortages and are at risk of failure.

"We sowed the rice seedlings as soon as the rain came, around two weeks ago. At the time we believed the rainy season had arrived. We were wrong. There hasn't been any rain since. Unfortunately, the seeds have already begun to grow and they need water badly. Now, most of them have already withered," 57-year-old Poyo said.

Poyo, a farmer from Gedangrejo village in Gunung Kidul regency, said the irrigation channel was dry because of the lack of rain.

"The seedlings, which are now around 15 days old on average, will die if it doesn't rain in the next few days," Poyo said.

Besides crop failure, farmers also face financial losses because they outlaid money for the seedlings and to plow their fields.

Another farmer, Pranoto, spent some Rp 200,000 to buy 20 kg of seedlings. The field he plowed has also dried up.

"I will have to plow the field again later when it rains, because it is parched now, even though I spent Rp 300,000 to get it plowed," he said.

Ratusna, a farmer in Srigading village in Bantul, who also sowed rice seedlings early, now is paying extra money to irrigate his field with water pumps.

"I have sowed the seedlings. If I don't water my field they will die," a farmer from Sanden, Purwanto, said.

He said he needed to irrigate fields so they could be plowed in the next three days to soften the soil.

"I have to add money to pay for gasoline to run the pump," he said. Head of Bantul Agricultural Office, Edy Suharyanto, said there were more than 1,200 hectares of farms facing water shortages in hilly areas, growing rice as well as side crops.

"The farms are located in rain-dependent areas, different to those which can be irrigated with water pumped from rivers," he said.

Edy said crop failure would be imminent if it did not rain within seven days. "There are currently at least 12,000 hectares of farms parched. If it doesn't rain in the next week, more farmland would be parched," Edy said.

According to the Meteorological and Geophysics Agency (BMG) in Yogyakarta, the lack of rain over the past 10 days is due to the presence of storms in various areas.

Satellite images show at least three storms north of the equator in southern China, the eastern Philippines and around Thailand, moving at a speed of 80 knots.

"Every cloud and wind is drawn to the storms," a BMG officer, Agus, said.

The three storms, Agus said, had led to a lack of rain, especially in Central and East Java, but the agency could not yet predict when the rains would return.

Drought, floods affect harvest in North Seram

Jakarta Post - November 21, 2007

M. Azis Tunny, Maluku – Large expanses of dry rice fields stretch out over Pasahari plateau in North Seram district, Central Maluku regency, where farmers are not able to use their fields optimally due to problems with irrigation.

Not far from the rice fields, the residents live in harmony and use the Javanese language in their daily lives, which is heavily influenced by Javanese culture.

The residents, most of whom are farmers, came from Java years ago on a transmigration program organized by the government. They have lived here ever since, cultivating the isthmus into a farming area.

The government sent the first transmigrants to Kobisonta, North Seram, in 1982.

Now, as many as 6,649 households, the inhabitants of which are originally from Java, are spread over 18 locations in North Seram. The local administration has assisted 5,617 households, which are now independent, and is currently assisting more than 1,000 others.

Although they have lived in the area for years, the transmigrants still face a perennial problem; there is no reliable irrigation system to support their farming. The farmers experience a lack water during the dry season and often face floods in the wet season. This situation influences the quality of their crops.

"The floods that swamp our rice fields are caused by illegal logging in the mountains," the Waiputih village secretary, Sumidi, told The Jakarta Post recently.

He said the administration had developed a production center in North Seram, Central Maluku, which is the only one in the region and run by the Javanese, who came with the transmigration program years ago. Now, there are 5,389 hectares of rice fields and 113,420 hectares of dry paddy fields, locally called "lahan padi gogo".

An agricultural trainer at the Maluku Plantation Office, Ngadimin, said poorly organized irrigation systems had a bad impact on rice production.

"Even though the local administration built two irrigation dams in 2002, only one is functional," he added.

He said construction of the dams was not prepared well. The officials decided on the dams' locations based on a survey they had conducted during the wet season.

In fact, the dams hold little water during the dry season, he said.

"Farmers in North Seram can not optimize their rice crops because they can only plant when water is available. The lack of water influences rice production."

He added only six of the 18 villages in the transmigration areas could produce rice maximally because they had good irrigation systems.

"Meanwhile, other farmers can plant rice only in the rainy season, when water is available."

Farmers also face other problems, such as a lack of quality seeds. The regency and provincial administrations once provided seeds from other regions but recently stopped the program because the seeds sent often sprouted before being planted.

"The areas, where we are living, are far from other districts and regencies – and the road is damaged. For this reason, the farmers opted to use local seeds, the quality of which is not so good," said Ngadimin, who also lives in the transmigration area.

Although the farmers experience difficulty in cultivating paddy, they are still able to sell their harvests to Papua. They are also able to meet the five percent standard of rice water content.

Ngadimin said the farmers needed more rice hulling machines to help them cope with the harvests.

There is only one machine to cover 25 to 60 hectares of rice fields; ideally one machine should cover 10 hectares.

Nowadays, the farmers also have to deal with middlemen, who buy their harvest directly in the rice fields at a price of Rp 2,800 to Rp 3,000 per kilogram. The middlemen then sell the rice at market at a price of Rp 4,000 to Rp 6,000.

The farmers can not avoid this situation because the state-run logistics company has no office that can buy their products at a better price.

"They have no other choice except to sell their products to middlemen in order to meet their daily needs. I hope the administration will pay serious attention to this problem and provide a solution," Ngadimin said.

Palm oil industry needs to be revamped: Observers

Jakarta Post - November 17, 2007

Jakarta – The so-called "partnership" between companies and farmers in the palm oil business needs to be reconsidered because it benefits big corporations, not farmers, say observers.

Nursuhud, a member of the House of Representatives' Commission IX overseeing social welfare, labor and transmigration affairs said the partnerships, established in 1977, were not equitable.

"The companies, as the core, possess the ability to control everything, like deciding how much of which crops will be accepted and also the criteria," he said Friday during a discussion on the welfare of Indonesian palm oil farmers.

"Farmers are always placed in a marginal position. The farmers are never involved in any attempts to reshape the paradigm."

Indonesia has some 7.2 million hectares of oil palm plantations producing some 16 million tons of crude palm oil. Indonesia controls nearly 36 percent of the world's CPO market, second only to Malaysia with 47 percent.

However, observers say there is still no system to integrate farmers into the industry, as equals of companies.

Suprapto, an oil palm farmer in Peser regency, East Kalimantan, who has been involved in the business for more than 20 years, said that during the harvest farmers often experienced losses because factories could not accommodate the entire crop.

"The price is quite good, but the problem is that we cannot sell all of our crops," he said.

Abetnego Tarigan of the group Oil Palm Watch said companies did not have a substantial interest in buying crops from farmers because most have their own plantations.

"They treat the farmers only as buffers to anticipate times when their plantations do not produce enough," he said.

He said the current system allowed companies to monopolize the industry because they controlled everything from transportation to manufacturing.

Director of plantation protection at the Agriculture Ministry, Hendrajat N, said to improve the welfare of palm oil farmers, the government would launch a program in 2008 to revitalize oil palm plantations.

The program will include the replanting of old plantations and the provision of soft loans so farmers can own at least four hectares of land.

"The revitalization program will also require (oil palm) companies to buy up to 20 percent of the company's needs from farmers," he said. "The program also aims to develop a sustainable, environmentally safe, oil palm industry."


Al Qiyadah loses members

Jakarta Post - November 24, 2007

Tarko Sudiarno, Yogyakarta – Some 1,000 members of Al Qiyadah Al Islamiyah, "a deviant and blasphemous sect", said the Indonesian Ulemas Council(MUI), renounced their faith Friday in a ceremony held at Babussalam Mosque in the compound of Yogyakarta Police headquarters.

Head of Yogyakarta's sect, Budi Thamtono (alias Achmad Mushadieq Tsany), led members in their pledge to return to the true teachings of Islam. All the members recited the syahadat twice – a creed acknowledging Allah as the one true God and Muhammad as Allah's prophet.

Budi and 24 representatives of the sect signed a letter declaring their renouncement was voluntary and that they were ready to return to Islam.

Yogyakarta Police chief Brig. Gen. Harry Anwar, MUI's representative KH Munwir Abdul Fatah and representatives from various Muslim organizations witnessed the ceremony.

Life no better with sharia bylaws: Survey

Jakarta Post - November 23, 2007

Muhammad Nafik, Bogor – Most Indonesians support the enactment of sharia bylaws even though they know ordinances already in place in several regencies have failed to improve social welfare, a survey has found.

"People's welfare remains the same as it was before the sharia bylaws were enforced," said the survey report.

The survey and its report was being discussed in a workshop in Cisarua, Bogor, West Java, on Thursday.

Some regions have enacted sharia bylaws despite warnings the legislation deprives the civil rights of women and non-Muslims.

In cooperation with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the research was conducted by the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture (CSRC) under Jakarta's State Islamic University in six regencies.

Each regency had implemented sharia-inspired ordinances between August 2006 and October 2007, including Bireun in Aceh, Tasikmalaya and Indramayu in West Java, Bulukumba in South Sulawesi, Bima in West Nusa Tenggara, and Tangerang in Banten province.

The survey involved 1,000 respondents including 200 non-Muslims and showed 44.5 percent of Muslims said the bylaws did not improve the economy of regional populations, as it had been intended to.

"In Bireun, the tourist sector has been drastically declining after the local authorities enforced canning punishments for adultery and alcoholism," CSRC researcher Syukran Kamil said.

Some 27.7 percent of the Bireun respondents said their economy had worsened but 26.4 percent said their welfare had improved thanks to the bylaws.

However, the ordinances received the support of 94.7 percent of respondents, who said they believed said bylaws were needed as a "way-out" from the numerous problems facing the nation. Support also came from almost half (46 percent) of non-Muslim respondents.

"The main reason for their approval is because (Muslim and non- Muslim) respondents said they believed sharia is part of a religious duty," Syukran said.

The findings confirmed an earlier survey by the UIN's Center for Community and Islamic Studies conducted between 2001 and 2004, which recorded an approval rate of more than 70 percent for sharia laws.

Political Islam scholars Azyumardi Azra and Noorhaidi Hasan said they were not surprised with the high approval rate for the ordinances. Muslims in general would say "yes" if asked whether they agreed sharia should be enforced in the country, Azyumardi said.

But he said if respondents had been asked specific questions, including if they would support hudud (harsh Islamic criminal law), which is part of sharia, "their answers would be totally different".

He said those in support of sharia bylaws believed sharia was "a panacea for social ills including gambling and prostitution".

Azyumardi, Noorhaidi and Catholic scholar Daniel Dakidae said the survey was "comprehensive".

The survey also found Indonesian non-Muslims are more tolerant than Muslims.

Most Muslim respondents would reject churches and other un- Islamic places of worships built in their neighborhood and refused to send their children to non-Muslim schools.

But most non-Muslim respondents were found to have no problem with the establishment of mosques at their doorstep.

New sect members named suspects

Jakarta Post - November 21, 2007

Jambi – Four of five people apprehended by Jambi Police, who have admitted to being members of a new sect, were named suspect for blasphemy Tuesday and could face up to five years jail under the Criminal Code. The fifth was only named a witness.

The suspects were allegedly responsible for setting up a new sect called the New Way of Islam.

"The suspects have disseminated their new teachings," Jambi Police chief Brig. Gen. Carel Risakotta said. One of the four suspects, Edi Ridwan, claimed to be a prophet.

The sect does not perform obligatory prayers or fasting during Ramadhan and does not recognize Prophet Muhammad.

 Elections/political parties

Golkar meeting concludes with call for harder work

Jakarta Post - November 26, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he appreciated Golkar's decision to suspend nominating a presidential candidate until after the 2009 legislative election to allow it to concentrate on accomplishing the government's economic programs.

"If other political parties take a similar way to what Golkar is doing in respect of governance ethics, we will pay more time to working for the people and for the nation's better future," he said in his address at the closing ceremony of Golkar's three-day leadership meeting here Sunday.

The President said it was unfortunate that many parties have been busy with other things, including presidential candidates and coalitions, despite the fact that the general election was still one and half years away. He said the nation had wasted too much time and energy on unproductive matters and conflicts.

Yudhoyono said parties and democracy were only means to reach common goals, namely building the nation, improving the people's social welfare and maintaining the nation's dignity.

"Our common problem is to reduce the poverty and unemployment rate. The solution comes not from the sky but from our hard work," he said. "We must work harder to do something for the nation."

The Golkar leadership meeting was closed with the celebration of its 43rd anniversary, during which the party presented awards to figures regarded as contributing the most to the party as well as the nation. Recipients of the awards included former Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung, former state secretary Moerdiono, former Papua governor Izaac Hindom and pop singer Titiek Puspa.

Also attending the ceremony were leaders of other parties, ambassadors and delegates of major parties in Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, India and China.

Golkar chairman Jusuf Kalla, who is also the vice president, stressed the importance of hard work to reach the government's targeted programs, saying Golkar should show its political commitment to contributing something to the nation.

"The general election is important but more important is achieving progress. The election also has to make progress for the nation," he said.

Golkar has said it will only announce its presidential candidate after the legislative election and will not hold a party convention to select the candidates.

The largest party at the House of Representatives is also committed to supporting the current administration while asking the government to increase the budget for education to 20 percent of the State Budget as mandated by the 1945 Constitution.

Tough work ahead for Golkar, says party member

Jakarta Post - November 24, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – It is less than 17 months before the 2009 general elections. And in this time, Golkar Party has no choice but to consolidate party members nationally in order to realize a 30 percent in the legislative election, a senior party figure said.

Chairman of Golkar's board of patrons, Surya Paloh, said the party would need to focus on their goal and members would need to work together and remember the party was only able to achieve 21 percent of votes in 2004.

"To improve the party's performance by nine percent in 2009, (the party will) need hard work and its political machine must be sped up," Surya told the party's leadership meeting here Friday.

But he said the 30 percent target was unrealistic amid the confidence crisis affecting political parties in general. And Golkar's defeats in several gubernatorial and regental elections in the past three years had impacted the party negatively, he said.

Political parties were also facing a legitimacy crisis, indicated by the huge number of floating votes in the 2004 general and regional elections, Surya said. The unexpected Constitutional Court's verdict to allow independent candidates to contest local elections would also be a factor Golkar had to face.

Surya, who was criticized for arranging a series of meetings between Golkar and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) in Medan and Palembang earlier this year, said, "Golkar should make a self-introspection on why the people have been less interested in political parties".

"You should not think that it is so easy to persuade eligible voters to cast their votes for Golkar in the next general elections," he said.

"Voters are now more educated and know well which parties really fight for their aspirations. All cadres, from the top leader to those at the grassroot level, are challenged to reach the target. Or otherwise the political machine develops trouble and the consolidation will only be on paper," Surya said.

He criticized many provincial, regional and municipal chapters that had made public any internal conflicts among functionaries.

He said he regretted that so many party cadres had moved to other parties before contending the local elections.

Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu and Syahril Yasin Limpo of South Sulawesi, both Golkar cadres, won the gubernatorial election under the auspices of PDI-P.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, also chairman of Golkar, asked party functionaries to work, rather than talk, to improve the party's performance and the country's social welfare.

"The party was established not only to seek power, but also to educate its cadres, channel its constituents' political aspirations and improve the people's social welfare," Kalla said.

"People will vote for parties not due to their massive banners and best music – but because of their performance. Golkar will be left behind if it fails to show its best," he said.

Chairman of Golkar faction at the House of Representatives Priyo Budisantoso said his party's deliberation of political bills in the parliament was part of its strategy to win the general election.

He said Golkar and PDI-P were set to impose tough legal and administrative requirements against the establishment of new parties. He said these efforts would develop a better system, help to fight for higher electoral and parliamentary thresholds, and help build a simple multiparty system.

Convention set to find Golkar candidates

Jakarta Post - November 20, 2007

Jakarta – Presidential candidates for the Golkar Party will be decided through a convention, party officials said Monday – just as they were for the last presidential election.

Details of the convention will be determined in a national leaders' meeting held after the 2009 general election for the legislative members, Syamsul Mu'arif said.

A national survey to screen the most favorable candidates among the public "will allow us to see who are the party's best candidates," Syamsul said.

Golkar Party chairman Jusuf Kalla had previously rejected the idea of holding a party convention to select a candidate for the 2009 presidential election.

Kalla, currently vice president, said a convention would not guarantee a candidate who represented the core interests of Golkar Party.

He said the party's statutes did not recognize the convention process.

Ahead of the 2004 presidential election, Golkar was praised for introducing a new, more transparent practise for Indonesian political parties.

At the convention Gen (ret.) Wiranto won-over party leader Akbar Tandjung.

Syamsul announced the agenda for Golkar's national leadership meeting, to be held Thursday to Saturday this week in Jakarta.

The meeting would be closed with celebrations for the party's 53rd anniversary Sunday.

The meeting would discuss Golkar's view of the bills on political parties and the elections, rising gas prices, climate change, and the evaluation of the party's performance in the recent gubernatorial election.

Golkar candidates have lost a number of elections, the last in South Sulawesi.

Political observer Indra J. Piliang said the timing of the convention after the 2009 legislative election "could be their political way to protect Jusuf Kalla (the vice president) from the possibility of being rejected" as the party candidate for president.

Apart from 655 party members, some 5,000 guests are expected at the leadership meeting, including dignitaries from the region. The event is set to be held at the Jakarta Fairgrounds (PRJ) in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta. (rff)

Coalition rejects criteria for independent candidates

Jakarta Post - November 19, 2007

Alfian, Jakarta – The requirements for independent candidates in regional elections are illogical and could lead to corruption, activists said Sunday.

The Civil Society Coalition, comprising of activists from 10 organizations, issued a joint statement to reject the requirements of independent candidates in regional elections, which were drawn up by the House of Representatives.

"The requirements are illogical and have no empirical base in the world history of democracy," Civil Circle for Indonesia (LIMA) director Ray Rangkuti said, reading the statement.

In Indonesia, independent candidates have only run in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, during its last elections earlier this year, based on the law on the province's special autonomy.

Currently the House is revising the 2004 Regional Administration Law. The revised draft rules that independent candidates must submit documents reflecting the number of their supporters; the amount based, on population density, within a range of 3 percent to 15 percent of the total number of citizens in a given area.

This means independent candidates must collect between 300,000 to 1,300,000 statements of support. Independent candidates for mayor and regent would have to gather between 15,000 and 90,000 supporters.

This large number would be difficult to verify, said Hadar N. Gumay, executive director of the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro).

"That requirement is almost impossible and never practiced in other countries," said Hadar. He added this requirement showed that the politicians in the legislature were actually against the new model in selecting regional leaders.

"The political parties, with their authority to formulate the regulation, do not want independent candidates. They do not want competitors other than their endorsed candidates," said Hadar.

The Aceh polls resulted in the victories of a number of candidates running on independent tickets, including current Governor Irwandi Yusuf.

Data from Cetro show that independent candidates for the latest gubernatorial election in Illinois, the United States, for instance, only needed to collect signatures from 25,000 of 12,831,970 registered voters.

Hadar said a rational number for statements of support in Indonesia's regional elections would be between 1 percent and 3 percent.

"That number already demonstrates that the independent candidates have potential voters," said Hadar.

The revised draft of the bill on regional administration also requires independent candidates to pay a deposit. Hadar said most countries require candidates to gain at least 10 percent of the vote to be able to get their deposits back.

Hadar said the requirements in this area were also too tough. The revised draft mentions a deposit of at least Rp 200 million for independent candidates in gubernatorial elections, and a minimum 25 percent of the vote is required for candidates to gain their deposits back.

Such steep requirements will discourage the public from taking part in regional elections as independent candidates, given the potential large losses involved, he said.

"For example in the Aceh (gubernatorial) elections, it was only the winner who could obtain more than 25 percent of the vote," Hadar said.

He suggested that the deposit requirement was not suitable for the country. The mechanism, he said, "could create a network for corruption".

Megawati starts country tour to meet low-income supporters

Jakarta Post - November 19, 2007

Jakarta – Presidential hopeful Megawati Soekarnoputri has embarked on a tour to visit poor families across Java.

The five-day trip was organized after Megawati accepted her nomination as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI- P)'s presidential candidate in the 2009 elections.

On Sunday she visited Karawang, Subang and Indramayu in West Java province.

She brushed off accusations she had started her election campaign.

"No, I am not starting a campaign here. It is a normal thing for a party leader to visit the constituents," she was quoted as saying by detik.com newsportal. "I am just visiting those who vote for me. I also want to know whether things have gotten better or worse."

Earlier in Karawang, Megawati and her husband Taufik Kiemas, who is the PDI-P's chief patron, handed over seeds to farmers.

Karawang is one of the country's biggest rice producing areas.

The Karawang farmers asked Megawati to resolve the scarcity of seeds and fertilizer during planting season.

Responding to the question, Megawati instructed PDI-P legislators to listen to the people's hopes and work for the sake of poor families.

"The legislators in Jakarta and local councilors must make pro- poor policies," Megawati was quoted as saying by Antara.

The PDI-P, the country's largest political party after the Golkar Party, is the first party to officially name its candidate in the 2009 elections.

Megawati accepted the nomination during the party's meeting in October.

Megawati was president from 2001 to 2004, succeeding Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, who was forced to step down by the People's Consultative Assembly over a corruption scandal.

Megawati was then defeated by her former chief security minister, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in the 2004 presidential election.

It is believed that current Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who is also chairman of the Golkar Party, will probably run for the presidency as well in the 2009 election, although he is yet to officially declare himself a candidate.

Kalla had his own "political safari" during the Idul Fitri holiday, visiting a number of Indonesian leaders including former presidents and vice presidents. He also had a whirlwind tour of nine provinces in Sumatra and Sulawesi.

Former Jakarta governor Sutiyoso has also declared his readiness to be nominated as a presidential candidate, although is he is yet to drum up support from any of the major parties.

Megawati is scheduled to visit Cirebon, West Java as well as Brebes and Tegal in Central Java on Monday.

On Tuesday, she will visit the Central Java towns of Blora and Rembang, where she will visit the grave of early Indonesian feminist RA Kartini.

The tour will end in East Java with Megawati visiting Surabaya, Sidoarjo and Blitar on Wednesday and heading to Tulungagung, Trenggalek and Magetan on Thursday.

Local parties 'good' for democracy

Jakarta Post - November 16, 2007

Alfian and Desy Nurhayati, Jakarta – Local parties are good for democracy and provide a vehicle to accommodate regional political aspirations – but their existence has been hampered, activists said Thursday.

In a discussion called "Local political parties, why are they rejected?" deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (Demos) Anton Pradjasto said local parties could minimize the gap between parties and their constituents.

"Through local parties, local aspirations could be represented (more clearly) and more explicitly," Anton said. The implementation of local parties would also see the public enjoy more control over their political representatives, he said.

National parties had yet to solve the country's problems because they failed to represent the public's rights in politics and socio-economics fields.

Anton also said there was a trust factor lacking with national parties. "Our survey in Aceh during the regional election showed that 80 percent of respondents chose local parties to channel their aspirations."

Although the current political system had local elections, these did not always see local aspirations realized, Anton said. "Our survey in Sergei, North Sumatra, East Belitung and East Nusa Tenggara found regional elections resulted in money politics practices."

He said the emergence of local parties would not necessarily harm the nation's unity but that human right's violations across the nation would.

Rusdi Marpaung of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor said he agreed with Anton and that local parties were beneficial for democracy.

"Local parties strengthen the recognition of political freedom guaranteed by the 1945 Constitution," Rusdi said.

"The Constitution does not forbid local parties. The idea of local parties is not totally strange in Indonesia. We already did it in the 1955 general election."

Separately, the Alliance of Political Parties for Justice gathered Thursday to declare its standpoint regarding the bills on political parties and general elections currently being deliberated by the House.

The parties demanded the revision of the bills should accommodate their aspirations and avoid discrimination against minor parties.

"The bill, if revised, should be based on good democratic principles, which are accountable, equal, open and effective," Sys NS, chairman of new party NKRI, said in the declaration.

The alliance comprises 26 new parties as well as older ones, which failed to meet the electoral threshold in the 2004 elections.

The alliance opposes a 5 percent electoral threshold proposed by major factions at the House, saying it was too high and could stop small parties from entering the 2009 polls.

Major factions defended the threshold and said it was necessary to achieve a simple multi-party system they claimed could form an effective government.

Chairman of the Hanura Party, Gen. (ret.) Wiranto, said it was possible the alliance could form a coalition in the future.

"Today, this alliance is only a forum to share our views and we just want to take rational political steps and strive to take part in the upcoming election," he said. "But in the future, it (would be) possible for us to establish a new coalition."

 Jakarta/urban life

Elevated roads shot down by experts

Jakarta Post - November 20, 2007

Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta – Critics said "more roads means more traffic" about Governor Fauzi Bowo's plan to expand driving space vertically, with elevated roadways stacked one above the other.

Experts say difficulty in purchasing land for new roads is behind the plan.

Andi Rahmah of the Indonesian Transportation Society said Monday the build-more-roads paradigm was obsolete.

"Five years ago, benefits from a new road would last a year. But with current traffic and the number of cars now, we enjoy the benefit of a new road for only a few weeks at the most."

"Expanding roads is not the answer by any means. It's only a temporary remedy for traffic problems."

For example, the Cikunir turnpike, which is part of the Jakarta Outer Ring Road, a toll road, was just as congested as other turnpikes one week after it commenced operation in late August, Andi said.

"Only investors and contractors will benefit from expanding road projects, while the people will suffer."

"The city administration must focus on developing the mass transportation system and limiting the use and ownership of private vehicles to overcome traffic congestion."

Jakarta has nearly 5.5 million cars, motorcycles, buses and trucks. On average, 269 private vehicles and 1235 motorcycles are purchased daily.

Jakarta roads, estimated to total 40 square kilometers, expand by less than 1 percent annually and can only accommodate 0.01 percent of all cars, according to City Public Works Agency head Wisnu Subagyo Yusuf. According to Budi Kuntjoro, a project director at the Institute for Transportation Development and Policy, mass transportation is the key to solving traffic problems in big cities like Jakarta.

"There will never be enough roads to accommodate all the cars, even if they are continuously expanded."

Fauzi said he planned to build underground roads and stacked, elevated roads like those in Tokyo, Japan, that reach up to five levels.

He said such roads, would help ease traffic congestion all over the capital as they did in Tokyo, apart from overpasses and underpasses he planned to build next year.

The elevated roads to be built would be linked to the existing inner city toll road and connect West, Central and East Jakarta, said Fauzi.

The elevated road project will cost an estimated Rp 21 trillion (US$2.25 billion), according to Fauzi.

However, he is yet to reveal the timeline for the project.

A transportation expert at the University of Indonesia, Bambang Susantono, said that – without doubt – just building more roads was not a sustainable solution to chronic congestion in the capital.

On the other hand, he said, sustainability was possible if new roads were part of a complete transportation scheme, feeding into bus lines, subways, and other systems.

He said it was important for the governor to determine the location of exits on the planned roads, as new roads to the center of Jakarta might do more harm than good.

Government sets plan for floods, complains about funding

Jakarta Post - November 16, 2007

Jakarta – Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto, Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo and the governors and deputy governors of neighboring Banten and West Java met with lawmakers Thursday to discuss flood mitigation in the capital.

During the meeting, the administrations of Jakarta, Banten and West Java agreed to share responsibility for preventing floods in the capital. Along with the ministry, the administrations have formulated steps they will take over the next three years to deal with flooding.

They told House of Representatives Commission V, which oversees public works, they will need around Rp 9.6 trillion (about US$1.04 billion) to complete the work, with Rp 6.4 trillion expected to come from the state budget.

Commission head Ahmad Muqowwam said lawmakers agreed with the funding request, but added there was no money in the current 2008 state budget for the program. He said money could only be allocated for the program if the budget was revised.

Planned flood mitigation efforts include the construction of the East Flood Canal and improvements to the West Flood Canal, the dredging of rivers, rehabilitation of lakes and dams and improvements to drainage systems.

However, the government has raised concerns about the availability of funding to complete the work.

"Of Rp 2.15 trillion (about US$233 million) needed for flood mitigation this year, only Rp 800 billion has been approved," minister Djoko said after the meeting.

He said problems in acquiring land remained the biggest obstacle to the construction of the East Flood Canal, with only 66 percent of the land needed for the work having been acquired as of Thursday. Given these problems, construction is not expected to finish before 2009.

As a result, according to Governor Fauzi, Jakartans should brace themselves for more floods in the coming years.

He told House members his administration also lacked funds to acquire land for the expansion of open green areas in the city and to relocate squatters from along riverbanks.

"I still have no idea how to reach the target of having the city be 30 percent green area. One percent equals to 650 hectares, or six times the size of Monas park. That's very costly," Fauzi said.

Unchecked development over the past decade has reduced the city's green area. Currently Jakarta, which covers a total of 650 square kilometers, is only around 9 percent green area, which has contributed to flooding.

Fauzi said flooding was worsened by the dumping of household waste into the city's rivers.

Development in Bogor and Cianjur, West Java, from which the rivers that run through Jakarta originate, has reduced water catchment areas, increasing the frequency and intensity of flooding in Jakarta.

West Java Deputy Governor Nu'man Abdul Hakim said illegal logging and forest conversion had damaged much of the province's forests, reducing their ability to retain water.

He said reforestation efforts would help reduce flooding, but the province lacked the money for such work.

During the meeting, some legislators criticized the government for being too "slow" to anticipate and prevent floods.

They also urged the government to speed up the construction of the East Flood Canal, act against people living illegally on the banks of rivers and check the construction of villas in Puncak, West Java, the upstream watershed to Jakarta. (wda)

 Economy & investment

Plywood producers in danger: Industry body

Jakarta Post - November 21, 2007

Jakarta – With illegal logging of ever-increasing concern, the country's plywood industry has suffered an acute shortage of raw materials, threatening to close almost half of the companies involved in the business.

Chairwoman of Forest Industry Revitalization Body Soewarni said here Tuesday that almost a half of the 100 or so companies engaged in the production of plywood and other wood products had been forced to close down due to lack of raw materials.

The shortage, for which she said government efforts to curb illegal logging was responsible, began in 2005.

Wood taken from licensed forest areas was often seized. "As a result, most plywood companies close down their businesses, lay off their workers or reduce production capacity. Of around 100 companies in the plywood industry, only between 40 and 50 companies can survive," Soewarni said on the sidelines of Asean Wood Furnitechno 2007.

She said the decline of the industry was shown by the continued drop in the country's plywood exports. According to her, plywood exports in the first nine months of this year reached only about US$1 billion, as compared to $1.6 billion in 2006.

She added that woodworking exports as of September 2007 were only about $940 million, compared to $1.3 billion in 2006.

Director General for Agro and Chemical industries at the Industry Ministry Benny Wahyudi also acknowledged that the lack of raw materials posed a major blow to the industry.

He said that the volume of semi-finished wood (mostly plywood) exports fell sharply to 2.08 million tons in 2006 from as high as 4 million tons in 2002. The highest drop was suffered by plywood exports, which plunged to 1.98 million tons in 2006, from 3.58 million tons in 2002.

He said that the decline in timber production had caused the industry to suffer a raw material deficit of about 20 million cubic meters a year. According to him, the annual demand had reached about 62 million cubic meters while the supply is only about 42 million cubic meters.

Soewarni said the soaring of international oil prices and the high-cost economy caused by red tape and legal uncertainty also posed a threat to the industry.

"With international oil prices reaching $100 per barrel, the industry is facing hard times because production costs could rise by between 4 and 10 percent."

Soewarni estimated that the limited supply of raw materials would push plywood export prices up to $480 per cubic meter from $460 and woodworking export prices to as high as $700 per cubic meter, from $500 per cubic meter now.

With the increase in production costs, it is unlikely that producers will be able to enjoy the price increase, she said. (tif)

Anti-monopoly body shoots Temasek, hits Government

Jakarta Post Editorial - November 21, 2007

Vincent Lingga, Jakarta – The market may simply ignore the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU)'s ruling against Temasek, its subsidiaries and Telkomsel. It will most likely be business as usual for Telkomsel, which was found guilty of breaching the anti-monopoly law on Monday by a panel of KPPU judges.

The KPPU ruling that Temasek and its subsidiaries shall divest themselves entirely of their stake in either Indosat or Telkomsel will not either have an adverse impact on the shares of these two mobile operators.

After all the market has become too familiar with the many questionable or even absurd rulings of the Indonesian antitrust body. In fact many of the KPPU's previous decisions in high- profile cases, though seemingly constructed from well-documented evidence, have been overturned by appellate courts either on technical or procedural grounds.

We understood that some bizarre rulings were unavoidable during the first few years after its launch in 2000, as KPPU staff and commissioners were still learning the ropes of their jobs. But the KPPU should have by now built up an adequate body of expertise to competently judge anti-monopoly cases.

However, its latest verdict, on the high-profile antitrust case against the Temasek group and Telkomsel, which is majority-owned by government-controlled Telkom, raises a lot of questions not only about its technical competence but also the integrity of KPPU commissioners.

Certainly, Temasek will appeal to the district court and the Supreme Court, though entering the court system in the country may plunge the Singapore government-owned investment company into another imbroglio.

The problem is that, unlike in many developed countries, there are no specific district courts here assigned to handle antitrust cases, which usually involve complex business deals. Hence, there is not a single court which has enough judges with an adequate body of expertise to examine cases related to the law on business competition.

But simply paying the fines and divesting its indirect stake in either Indosat or Telkomsel means acknowledging it has committed business sins and such an admission will damage its reputation all over the world.

A ruined reputation would adversely affect Temasek investment operations overseas on which this government's investment holdings have relied increasingly for incomes.

The KPPU ruling indeed puts Temasek in a very delicate position.

Therefore there is no other alternative for Temasek but to fight it out up to the Supreme Court, even with all the uncertainty about the legal proceedings and final results.

Since the KPPU ruling also requires divestment, this case may also be eligible to be filed with the World Bank's arbitration body, the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington. The question, though, is whether Temasek – which in the perception of the Indonesian government and general public is synonymous with the Singapore government – is willing to pursue such a lawsuit at the risk of causing severe strains on bilateral relations.

But the KPPU's decisions are also a rebuke to the Indonesian government, as they reveal how utterly incompetent it has been in appointing directors and commissioners (supervisors) to Indosat and Telkomsel.

The fact is the government-controlled Telkom owns 65 percent of Telkomsel and 14.5 percent of Indosat, while Temasek, through its subsidiaries, holds only around 19 percent of Telkomsel and around 31 percent of Indosat. In addition, the government also owns a golden share in Indosat that provides it with a veto right over major corporate actions.

How could the government-appointed directors and commissioners, which make up the majority of the boards at both mobile telecommunications companies, allow Temasek to collude with Telkomsel in abusing its market dominance and committing other monopolistic acts?

But all in all, we should give credit where credit is due. The KPPU should be commended for its ruling that each buyer of the stake Temasek and its subsidiaries will sell either in Indosat or Telkomsel cannot acquire more than five percent.

This ruling at least will kill the rumor that a big foreign investment company, eagerly looking for investment opportunities in telecommunication in Indonesia, was behind the KPPU move on Temasek.

However, national and foreign investors eying stakes in Indosat or Telkomsel should have patience because, based on the KPPU ruling, Temasek shall complete its divestment within two years after the KPPU rulings become final and binding. This means more than 27 months from now (after all of the appeal process is completed) or even much longer if Temasek brings the case to the ICSID in Washington.

Economy resilient amid global slowdown

Jakarta Post - November 16, 2007

Andi Haswidi, Jakarta – The economy will remain resilient next year despite tough challenges ahead stemming from a predicted slowdown in the global economy as a result of high oil prices and the US subprime mortgage crisis, a World Bank report says.

"We are projecting 6.3 percent growth this year and are expecting it to pick up a bit further to 6.4 percent next year," WB East Asia and Pacific lead economist Milan Brahmbhatt, in Washington, said via a video linkup Thursday with reporters in Jakarta.

Milan said that Indonesia would be able to weather short-term global volatility arising out of the US subprime mortgage crisis and the renewed surge in oil prices through increased domestic consumption and investment, which would continue to sustain growth.

According to the report, investment growth had been running at around seven to eight percent per annum since the second quarter of 2006 up until the end of June, with indications of a further pickup in the near-term.

"Exports have also been doing well, not only commodity exports, but also non-traditional exports. I think those are all pretty positive signs and things look quite strong going forward," Milan said.

The report says that the strength of the country's exports is reflected in the current account surplus, which is projected to widen further to $10.8 billion this year, or about 2.5 percent of GDP.

As a result, net international reserves climbed steadily during this period to almost $53 billion at the end of September, compared with $42.6 billion at the end of last year.

Picking up on Milan's comments, WB lead economist for Indonesia William Wallace said that the country's inflation would remain manageable despite high oil prices, and would come in at 6.5 percent at the end of 2007, and further decline to 6 percent in 2008.

"We are not expecting to see a large overall pickup in inflation as the world seems to be able to adjust to higher oil prices," he said.

Based on the above economic growth scenario, Wallace said that Indonesia could reduce the number of people living in poverty, defined as living on under $2 a day, by 4.6 million from 105.3 million to 100.7 million out of a total population of 236.4 million next year.

As for oil prices, Wallace said that the report assumed they would average $70 a barrel this year, $72 next year and just under $70 in 2009.

However, the report says that given the tight market conditions, speculative demand and political risk factors, there is a risk that prices could remain above $90, which could lead to an income loss in East Asia of about 1.1 percent of GDP.

As for the impact of the subprime crisis, the report said that the financial markets were able to absorb it with minimal disruption of overall economic performance to date, with the Jakarta Stock Exchange (JSX), after plunging by 20 percent in the three weeks between late July and mid August, rebounding quickly and hitting record highs again by mid-October.

On the projected slowing down of the US economy, Wallace said that the connection between US growth and Indonesia's may not be that strong. "The estimate is that if US growth is down by one percent, then Indonesia's may be down by half a percent," he said.

Indonesia's export share rises: Report

Jakarta Post - November 16, 2007

Andi Haswidi, Jakarta – Indonesia improved its share of world trade last year thanks largely to a surge in the prices of the country's main commodities, according to the latest report from the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The country's share of total global exports increased to 0.9 percent from 0.8 percent in 2005, with year-on-year export growth jumping by 19 percent from US$86.2 billion to $103.5 billion.

Meanwhile, total world exports stood at $12 trillion last year, with Germany leading the way with exports worth $1.1 trillion, followed by the United States on $1 trillion and China on $968.9 billion.

In terms of ranking, despite lagging behind two other countries in the Southeast Asia region – Singapore in 12th place and Malaysia in 19th – Indonesia managed to maintain its position as the world's 31st biggest exporter.

The WTO report was officially published earlier this week. The country's 2006 trade performance was largely due to higher global prices for key commodities, such as oil, minerals, palm oil, rubber and iron. An increase in volume, although slight, also contributed to the growth, said the report.

"We also saw considerable increases of volume for both primary commodities and manufactured products in 2006," Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu told The Jakarta Post on Thursday, commenting on the report.

"That means that significant investments came onstream despite the problems affecting the investment climate," she explained, referring to issues that lead to the high cost of doing business here.

"Our main strategy now must be focused on maintaining the growth in investment in areas where (export) results can be felt directly within three to six months. The second is to resolve the bottlenecks caused by inadequate infrastructure," Mari said.

The third step, she explained, would be to focus on the challenges posed by a possible slowdown in the global economy resulting from record global oil price and the fallout from the US subprime mortgage crisis.

"Signs of the slowdown can already be felt. Our export growth to the US has weakened to roughly 5 percent from the usual 9 percent," she revealed.

To mitigate the impact on export growth, she said her officials had embarked on a market diversification drive this year, focused on first-tier destinations such as China, India and South Korea.

"The second-tier countries include the Central European countries, Russia and the Middle East, as there are plenty of construction projects going on there."

By the end of this year, Mari said she expected to see at least 14 percent growth in total exports, and predicted 14.5 percent growth for 2008.

In the meantime, total exports as of the end of September had reached $83 billion, representing an increase of 12.88 percent compared to the same period last year.

 Opinion & analysis

Mandatory CSR in Indonesia: Waiting for the details

Jakarta Post - November 21, 2007

Ali Darwin and Patrick Guntensperger, Jakarta – Considerable controversy has accompanied the Indonesian government's recent enactment of legislation requiring corporations to participate in mandatory corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.

Despite strong protests from the business community, and cynical indifference on the part of the public, the provision requiring mandatory participation in CSR programs was retained, although it was modified to cover only companies in natural resource-based sectors. The bill was passed on July 20, 2007 and became operative on Aug. 16, 2007 as Law No. 40/2007 concerning limited liability companies.

Article 74 stipulates that all companies engaged in the exploitation of natural resources must conduct environmental and social responsibility programs and that they will be liable to sanctions if they fail to do so. The funds expended on CSR programs are to be considered as part of a company's annual operating costs, and so can be set off against taxation liabilities.

The revised law also mandates disclosure of activities related to environmental and social responsibility programs in companies' annual reports. This stipulation has broad corporate support, given that disclosure is regarded as a "best practice" that has been required and practiced by the Capital Market Supervisory Agency (Bapepam) since last year.

In Indonesia, The Center for Sustainability reporting and business groups have lobbied for the adoption of such practices by Indonesian companies with considerable success. In 2004, only one listed company issued a sustainability report; in 2005, this had increased to four; by 2006, 12 companies issued stand-alone sustainability/CSR reports in addition to their annual financial reports.

Nevertheless, there is still a need for an ancillary set of regulations to augment and clarify Law No. 40/2007 in order that it can be transparently and consistently implemented. At the moment most corporations are still unclear as to what their specific obligations are, and the public suspects that is yet another legislative package that will be summarily ignored if compliance is either inconvenient or expensive. Careful consideration indeed will have to go into the formulation of this most critical aspect of CSR legislation in Indonesia.

In fact, creating the ancillary regulations will be more challenging than the formulation of the law itself; while the law expresses a general set of principles, and formulates a lofty goal, the details of how these principles will be implemented in practice needs to be contained and clarified in these regulations.

In order to establish these regulations, the government has established a special task force that is expected to complete its task by December 2007. The special task force appears to have adopted the following key approaches:

  1. The ancillary regulations will focus on social and environmental issues only;
  2. At every stage of the development of the ancillary regulations, stakeholders are invited to give input to the Special Task Force;
  3. The ancillary regulation on CSR will refer to and consolidate existing laws, regulations and standards;

Indonesia already has an abundance of legislation governing environmental and social issues. The difficulty is that these laws are scattered, unconnected, administered by different agencies and departments, sometimes redundant, and occasionally even contradictory. Clearly there is no need to create yet another set of laws in these areas.

Rather, the ancillary regulations will be a compilation and harmonization of the relevant existing laws, including those on issues related to the environment, water resources, biodiversity, general mining, oil and gas mining, forestry, labor, social security for employees, national social security system, human rights, state-owned enterprises, and foreign investment; the ancillary legislation will also address the central bank and capital market regulations.

Indications are that the ancillary regulations will not apply levy systems, requiring contributions to government departments from the corporations, and that the government will not collect funds from businesses for CSR programs. If the system is to be implemented in an ideal way, as seems likely, both the extent and the form of the CSR programs are going to be the business of businesses, not of a government body.

For this mammoth undertaking to be effective, however, it is absolutely vital that the new regulations and their monitoring be enforced constantly, regularly, consistently and transparently. With sufficient public awareness and the constant scrutiny of the business and international community, it is possible that these uniquely Indonesian social and environmental laws will not only look good on paper, but will actually have a measurable effect on the lives of the people of the region.

It is time that we in the business and environmental communities accept that the new laws exist; the time for protest is over. With mandatory CSR programs now established as law, corporations must consider what kinds of programs are most suitable to their circumstances and most beneficial to the community.

While laws have been established that make CSR programs mandatory, the manner in which these laws will be implemented will not be apparent until the ancillary regulations are in place. Thus, we will have to wait until the end of the year when these regulations are established to judge the effectiveness of what is shaping up to be an enlightened approach.

[Ali Darwin is the executive director of the National Center for Sustainability Reporting and Patrick Guntensperger is a writer, lecturer and consultant specializing in sustainability and communications.]

Barking up the wrong tree

Jakarta Post Editorial - November 20, 2007

The antitrust body's questionable ruling against Singapore's Temasek Holdings, its subsidiaries and Telkomsel on Monday just added more evidence of the legal uncertainty that has kept most foreign investors away from Indonesia.

The Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) is supposed to play a vital role in a market economy, as it is responsible for preventing monopolistic practices and unfair business competition, which were rampant during Soeharto's administration through collusion between big corporations, officials, politicians and Soeharto's cronies and relatives.

The KPPU was greatly welcomed upon its establishment in 2000 as an independent body responsible for enforcing the 1999 law on competition, which serves as the constitution for market mechanisms. A properly functioning KPPU is a strong deterrent keeping big businesses from abusing their market dominance or engaging in other cartel-like practices.

However, an antitrust body that does not possess high standards of technical competence and integrity is not only impotent to defend fair market competition, but could damage the business climate through absurd decisions that create a new legal black hole for investors.

Even more devastating would be if the KPPU could be manipulated by vested interests to harass particular business entities through negative media campaigns or unnecessary investigations.

These are some of the apprehension we felt upon learning of the KPPU's decision Monday and the background events, intrigue, rumors and controversy that preceded the KPPU's investigations into allegations of monopolistic practices by Telkomsel and Indosat, the country's largest cellular operators, which together control more than 80 percent of the market.

The legal technicalities and the market and business theories used by the KPPU investigation team in building an antitrust case against Temasek, its subsidiaries and Telkomsel are for the legal experts to analyze.

Legal matters, however complex they may be, should make sense, should have a logic. But we find hard it to understand why Temasek from the outset was picked on as the primary defendant while the case centered on charges of abuse of market dominance by Telkomsel, the largest cellular operator, and price-fixing by Telkomsel and Indosat to keep mobile service prices lucratively high and to bar new players from entering the market.

It should have been the Indonesian government and state- controlled Telkom, which owns 65 percent of Telkomsel, examined as the primary defendants. The Indonesian government also owns 14.29 percent of Indosat, while Temasek indirectly holds only 35 percent of Telkomsel and almost 31 percent of Indosat.

Moreover, the government appointed five of the nine members of the board of directors at Indosat and most of its commissioners (supervisors). The government also owns a golden share in Indosat, which gives it veto power over important corporate decisions. The Telecommunications Regulatory Body also is dominated by government appointees.

So how could Temasek, despite its cross-ownership at Indosat and Telkomsel, control both companies and fix their prices for the benefit of Telkomsel? This seems entirely illogical because it would be the Indonesian government and not Temasek that would benefit the most from Telkomsel's "monopolistic prices".

Temasek subsidiary ST Telemedia was one of only two telecommunications companies – Telekom Malaysia is the other one – that submitted final bids in October 2002 for shares of publicly listed Indosat put on sale by the government soon after the terrorist bombings in Bali killed hundreds of people.

ST Telemedia paid more than a 50 percent premium over the market price to bag the stake through what was then described by many national and foreign media as a transparent transaction.

The deal also was processed under the political scrutiny of the House of Representatives, the stock market watchdog (Bapepam) and the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM).

But, suddenly five years later, Temasek came under an endless wave of smear campaigns, public opinion harassment and many other allegations, which was capped with the KPPU investigation and decisions that ordered the Singapore business group to sell its entire stake in either Indosat or Telkomsel.

Temasek and its subsidiaries will certainly appeal the decisions at the district court and the Supreme Court, but entering the justice system will plunge the Temasek group into another legal black hole because of the notorious reputation of Indonesia's courts as one of the most corrupt public institutions.

We are sinking

Jakarta Post Editorial - November 17, 2007

There is an almost palpable fear in the air of a repeat of the devastating floods that paralyzed almost all of Jakarta in February this year.

Floods have already inundated parts of Greater Jakarta that are known to be flood-prone, after almost daily heavy rain over the last few weeks.

With more rain and storms predicted in Jakarta and its satellite cities throughout the month, it is no surprise that residents are scrambling to prepare for the anticipated floods.

Preparations include raising floors and building a second story for those who can afford to renovate their houses. Others are simply stockpiling sandbags to try and keep the water out of their homes.

There are many residents, however, who do not have the means to escape the floods. All they can do is wait for the disaster to strike.

It cannot be said the Jakarta administration has done nothing to anticipate what has become an annual disaster. Smarting from the February floods, new Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo has ordered – and inspected – the dredging of Jakarta's canals.

At the community level, residents have been alerted to the possibility of major flooding, to help them better prepare for the danger.

When a disaster is unavoidable, the better people are able to prepare for the calamity can help reduce the loss of lives and property.

February's floods, called the biggest such disaster in modern Jakarta history, claimed 48 lives and displaced thousands.

The city administration has also cleared almost 70 percent of the land required to build the Eastern Flood Canal, moving closer to the realization of this much-awaited and delayed flood control system. The current and previous Jakarta governors share a belief that the Eastern Flood Canal will significantly reduce the threat of flooding in Jakarta.

Though he has made flood prevention a priority in his first 100 days in office, it would be unfair to expect Fauzi to be able to resolve the problem in mere months when his predecessor, Sutiyoso, had years to deal with flooding.

Fauzi needs time to make his flood prevention strategy work. He was Sutiyoso's deputy when about 70 percent of Jakarta was under water nine months ago, but good advice from a deputy is worthless if the boss fails to act on it.

Jakarta is geographically prone to floods as 40 percent of its territory lies below sea level. There are also 13 rivers that dissect the city. This shouldn't be seen as an excuse, however, as many cities around the world face similar geographical characteristics yet manage to avoid yearly floods.

Assuming that sooner or later Jakarta will once again be under water, the city administration needs to prepare a contingency plan to deal with the worst-case scenario. Supplies of food and medicines will be crucial to prevent victims from falling ill.

The spread of disease is common after floods, which is why the city administration needs to get hospitals ready to admit patients.

Slow evacuation of people displaced by floods and the failure to provide them proper temporary settlements are mistakes the current administration cannot afford to repeat.

To implement the disaster management scheme, however, the governor needs to show his sense of crisis by convincing those involved in the work he will be available for consultation and to provide assistance at all hours until the disaster is over. In many cases, a policy fails to be effectively implemented in the field because of a failure of leadership at the very top.

All the flood prevention measures, both short and long-term, however, will be useless without the full support of residents. Instead of spending their time filing demands or complaints, residents should start asking what they have done to help prevent floods.

It is no secret that a major factor in the annual floods is the tons of domestic waste that clog up the city's rivers and drainage system.

A change of behavior on the part of people will mean half the flood prevention work is already done. The rest is up to the Jakarta administration.

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